After spending more than five-and-a-half months as a free agent, Adam Jones didn't need any convincing to sign with the Denver Broncos. To the 34-year-old cornerback, his newest football home has all he needs.
"Why not Denver?" he asked rhetorically in his introductory press conference. "If you want to win, this is the place to be. Great coaching staff, great owner, great locker room, good team. I don't see any reason why not."
And winning is exactly what Jones wants. He's never won a playoff game in five postseason appearances, and he wants to be part of a team that can make a deep run.
"I haven't won a playoff game," Jones said with a laugh. "I've been in the league 12 years. So I'm just trying to win a playoff game and help these guys as much as I can. We have a talented group of guys here in the [defensive] backfield and all around the team. ... I'm here to help and to lead in the best way I can."
A sense of familiarity also helped make this an easy decision. Head Coach Vance Joseph served as Jones' defensive backs coach in Cincinnati in 2014 and 2015, and Jones said the two have stayed in contact since. He said Monday he regards Joseph as a "big brother and father figure" and someone he respects greatly.
"My first year coaching Adam — obviously it's always tough coaching veterans because they've played one way for so long — he wouldn't change the way he played the first year," Joseph said. "But, the second year, he really conformed and changed how he played, let me coach him and he made a Pro Bowl, and he received a long-term contract with Cincy. I enjoyed coaching him because he is competitive. Every game we played, he was ready to go. Every day for work, he was ready to go."
Nose tackle Domata Peko Sr. shared seven seasons in Cincinnati with Jones, and he feels Jones will be a good fit in his new home.
"In the building, in the locker room and at home, he's really a good guy," Peko said. "Really cool. His wife and kids have been over to the Peko house in Cincinnati. He's really a good guy."
Denver represents a new start for Jones, one he's excited to embrace.
"The past is the past," he said. "My life is unbelievable, stress-free. It's always good to go back and revisit the past so it doesn't pop up on you. But I don't know if you should keep beating it and beating it. You learn from your mistakes and you move on."
From a strictly football perspective, Jones is a key addition. A versatile corner who has a knack for the ball, Jones racked up at least 60 tackles in each of his last three healthy seasons with the Bengals. His 66 tackles two seasons ago ranked inside the top dozen among cornerbacks, per NFL.com. Though Jones was a free agent for an extended time, he worked hard to stay in shape, and he's confident that he'll be able to contribute as both a cornerback and a returner. He was a First-Team All-Pro punt returner in 2014 and then made the Pro Bowl in 2015 as a cornerback.
"He's a Bronco, and he's going to ride with our defense," Peko said. "What that means to me and what that means to us is that if we're running the ball outside, he'll stick his helmet in there and make a hit for us. That's what I love about him. I love how he plays aggressive, and not only does he play defense, he's a hell of a returner as well."
Joseph is also excited to make the most of Jones' versatility: "I don't think [the cornerback position] was an issue, but you always want to have more experience. That was the key element around signing Adam. It's having one more experienced corner and also having one more experienced returner."
Jones admitted it will take a little bit of time — roughly a week or so — to get comfortable in the system and learn the team's terminology and defensive play calls.
And though being in his mid-30s means Jones doesn't have quite the physical skill set he once had, he's making up for it by being a smarter player, something that should ease his transition. Jones is the lone active defensive back from the 2005 NFL Draft.
"I'm playing it a lot smarter now," Jones said. "When I was young, I played with all athletic ability. Now I pretty much know everything about the game. I can tell you from splits what routes we're going to get. I can tell you if it's I-formation, if it's max protection. If you release outside, you're only going to get two routes: a comeback and a go. Those things come with time and learning the game. I would say the mental part of my game has improved, and that's what's keeping me playing right now."
Because he joined the team so late, Jones says he has the mentality of "the last man on the post." He signed roughly two weeks before the regular-season opener against Seattle on Sept. 9, so he's not yet sure what his role will be on that day. It's contingent on him getting comfortable with the playbook and being in game shape.
What Jones may lack in preparation time, however, he makes up in experience and belief in his abilities.
"My number will get called," Jones said. "And when it gets called, I'll be ready."