The 2016 Free Agent series continues with cornerbacks.
The Packers could have a need at slot cornerback if they don’t re-sign Casey Hayward. Hayward played the most snaps of any Packers corner in 2015 and was excellent in coverage (+6.0). The Packers have 2nd round pick Quentin Rollins and Micah Hyde waiting in the wings. Sam Shields has a concussion history and Damarius Randall was average as a 1st round pick in 2015 (-.5). The Packers will probably play with their current crop of CBs and rely on second year CB LaDarius Gunter for the 5th CB spot.
The Bears need a number 2 CB and a slot CB and a fourth CB. Tracy Porter and Alan Ball are free agents and didn’t provide the veteran support as expected in 2015. Sherrick McManis (-9.4) failed in the slot for the Bears and is a free agent as well. The Bears should be pretty active in the CB market to pair with improved former 1st round pick Kyle Fuller (+3.7).
The Vikings have three free agents in Terrence Newman (+3.8), Marcus Sherel and Josh Robinson. The Vikings have 1st round pick Trae Waynes waiting in the wings and could re-sign the 37 year old Newman due to his love for Coach Zimmer and solid play in 2015. The Vikings will need some depth and Marcus Sherels was their punt returner. Xavier Rhodes is the Vikings top corner and Waynes is expected to be the number 2 man. Captain Munnerlyn (+10.1) mans the slot well but depth will be needed. Newman back is the most likely option for Minnesota.
The Lions could be set at CB but may need some depth. Darius Slay (+15.8) is a stud CB and the second ranked CB per PFF. Second year CB Nevin Lawson did well in the second half of the season stepping in for the injured Rashean Mathis (concussion). Lawson had a poor grade (-7.8) but was very good when targeted in not giving up the big play. Speaking of Mathis, the 35 year old retired and will not play out his final year of his contract for Detroit. The Lions lose a veteran presence that was good in 2014 but average in 2015 in 7 games.
Alex Carter is a 3rd round pick rookie that missed all of 2015 due to injury. Another rookie in Quandre Diggs (+6.3) was excellent in the slot in the second half of the season and should be the Lions nickel going forward. Detroit could use a 5th CB but could add a CB to challenge Lawson and Carter for the number 2 job. It depends what GM Bob Quinn will attack in free agency and how he feels about Lawson or Carter. Carter is a complete unknown but has size and talent and intelligence (Stanford grad).
Starting Outside CBs
The big name is Josh Norman. Norman is a top 5 CB the last three seasons and should be franchised by Carolina. I’ll be shocked if he is available on March 9.
Sean Smith is a 28 year old larger corner from the Chiefs. Smith earned a +9.5 grade in 13 games for the Chiefs. Smith was suspended the first 3 games of the season due to performance enhancing issues. Smith was a big reason for the Chiefs turnaround in the final 10 games. Smith had 2 interceptions and allowed an 87.8 QB rating. Smith is 6’3 and can match up with any big WR in the league.
Leon Hall is 31 years old but had a lot of success for the Bengals. Hall had a +7.5 grade but did allow 78% completion with very low YPC (9.5). Hall had a knee injury a few years ago but appears to be back to form. Hall was a former 1st round pick and has been a part of the Bengals defense for years in 5 straight playoff appearances with top 10 defenses. Hall played under Mike Zimmer and may be an upgrade over Newman if Waynes isn’t ready.
Prince Amukamara is oft injured but a good CB from the Giants. The 2011 first round pick earned a +2.9 grade in 779 snaps in 2015. The Giants haven’t reached out to Amukamara for a new contract and bidding war in free agency could occur if teams are comfortable with his injury prone past.
Trumaine Johnson is another young and big cornerback. Johnson is 26 and 6’3 from the Rams. Johnson earned a +8.5 grade and has the size for big WRs but was originally a safety for St. Louis. Given his age and size, Johnson could get a nice sized contract in free agency. There have been talks of a transition tag for Johnson which will allow the Rams to match any offer given.
Janoris Jenkins is another Rams CB. Jenkins was a 2nd round pick from 2012 and has done a solid job for the Rams. Jenkins earned a +6.7 grade and has been the Rams top corner for the past four years. The Rams won’t want to lose both CBs and will try hard to re-sign Jenkins or Johnson.
William Gay is 31 but was a solid cornerback for the Steelers. Gay earned a +4.3 grade and allowed only a 75 QB rating. A two or three year deal for Gay would be a nice addition for a team needing a veteran corner.
Greg Toler is 31 and had a poor year with the Colts (-12.7). Toler has starting experience but is a low end starter.
Jarraud Powers is another starting CB from the Cardinals and Colts previously. Powers was the weak link in the Arizona secondary and notched a -5.9 grade. Powers allowed a 101 rating and 65% completion. Power is 28 years old but has starting experience for the Cardinals and Colts. He is a low-end number 2 option.
Morris Claiborne is a failed top 10 pick by the Cowboys. Claiborne had a -13.8 grade and allowed a 100 QB rating. Claiborne is young (26 years old) but must develop quickly if a team needs him to start.
We have already mentioned Casey Hayward as the top slot CB option.
Adam Pacman Jones is a good slot CB. He also has a slew of off field issues and didn’t think Antonio Brown had a concussion from a cheap shot by Burfict in the playoff game. Jones earned +10.1 grade but is 32 years old. Buyer beware with Pacman.
Nolan Carroll showed some flashes with the Eagles. Carroll was average in coverage but poor in run defense. Caroll is 29 years old but could play the slot if surrounded by talent in the secondary.
Antonio Allen is a slot and safety hybrid that was injured all of the 2015 season for the Jets. Allen can cover and tackle well. A team may take a shot on the recovering 27 year old due to versatility.
Jeremy Lane has had success with the Legion of Boom but is a low end slot CB.
Patrick Robinson (+5.7) had a nice year for the Chargers after several down years for the Saints. Robinson is a former 1st round pick. Robinson would be good depth for a CB needy team.
Charles Tillman is 34 and had an average season with the Panthers before his ACL injury. Tillman shouldn’t be counted on to start but could be a back-up if he recovers and doesn’t retire.
Cary Williams was cut by the Seahawks. He had success with Baltimore in their Super Bowl run but failed with the Eagles and Seahawks. Williams is 31.
Alan Ball, Tracy Porter, Tarell Brown, Mike Jenkins are older veteran back-ups that could earn a roster spot on cheap deals.
Brandon Boykins and Antwan Blake are failed slot CBs from the Steelers in 2015.
Josh Robinson could earn a second chance for a team from the Vikings due to his age and Sherels has punt return ability.
There is a good amount of starting outside CBs available. The franchise tag looms for Norman and possibly others. There should be some bidding wars for CBs in a passing league. The Bears are the most CB needy team and it would be a coup if they added a good one to pair with Fuller with their cap space. The Lions could add a very good CB to pair with Slay too. It’s unknown how happy Quinn is with the Lions number 2 CB situation. The Vikings and Packers will add back-ups only at best.