Ranking the Free Agents: Cornerbacks

| March 5, 2011

This year’s (potential) crop of free agent cornerbacks looks enticing to say the least. It possesses a couple of “shut down” veterans still at the top of their game and supplants them with good young talent.

The fact two Baltimore Ravens make the list, after the criticism of their secondary, might surprise some but both are thoroughly deserving.

Both teams looking for a quick fix and those more focused on the future should have plenty of options when free agency eventually opens.

Let’s take a look at the top ones available.

1. Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland Raiders

Age as of September 1st 2011: 29

Free Agent Status: 8 years accrued

2010 Grade: +4.7

Key Stat: Of the passes against Oakland the past three years, he’s allowed just 3.7% to be completed

Behind the numbers: There’s no doubt at all that teams shy away from targeting Asomugha. His number of targets over the past three seasons read like a top cornerbacks completions allowed. As a result, he doesn’t get a chance to make big plays that are so revered in the NFL. Penalties (six in 2010) and sub-par run defense, restrict him from the top spot.

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2. Josh Wilson, Baltimore Ravens

Age as of September 1st 2011: 26

Free Agent Status: 4

2010 Grade: +13.0

Key Stat: He improved his completion percentage allowed by 15% between 09 and 10.

Behind the numbers: Wilson is just another example of the genius of Ozzie Newsome. He moved from Baltimore to Seattle in the 2010 offseason for just a 2011 condition pick. Despite showing flashes for the Seahawks in a reduced role, it wasn’t until he moved to Baltimore that he flourished. It will be interesting to see the kind of contract and interest he garners considering he’s unlikely to be an unrestricted free agent under the new CBA.

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3. Jonathan Joseph, Cincinnati

Age as of September 1st 2011: 27

Free Agent Status: 5 years accrued

2010 Grade: +3.1

Key Stat: He allowed just 10.4 yards per catch during 2010

Behind the numbers: Joseph would be higher up the list if he could find a way to stay healthy but the fact  he’s missed 12 games over the past three years is certainly concerning. He perhaps offers the highest upside of all the free agents after a 2009 season in which he ranked 6th overall but also carries considerable risk. It wasn’t just injury that hampered Joseph’s 2010 season as he struggled to recreate his form of 09. This is definitely a case of “buyer beware.”

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4. Chris Carr, Baltimore

Age as of September 1st 2011: 28

Free Agent Status: 6 years

2010 Grade: +4.2

Key Stat: He allowed an average of just 8.7 yards per catch

Behind the numbers: Despite the indication Baltimore need whole scale changes in their secondary, Carr’s performance would suggest otherwise. Used as a starter and slot corner in the nickel, he could prove a useful asset to any team looking for cornerback depth. Considering his disappointing run defense (he ranked in the bottom five in that category) it might make more sense for him to adopt a role on the outside, where he’d have fewer responsibilities.

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5. Brent Grimes, Atlanta

Age as of September 1st 2011: 28

Free Agent Status: 3 years accrued

2010 Grade: +9.3

Key Stat: His 16 pass deflections were second in the NFL this year

Behind the numbers: Grimes is another guy, like Wilson, who preaches the importance of patient development. After struggling in both 2008 and 2009, most assumed it would be big money free agent Dunta Robinson who would turn around Atlanta’s secondary but Grimes was firmly enshrined as the Falcons’ number one cornerback by the end of the year. Still a little inconsistent (he had more negative games – 10 – than positive ones), when he’s “on” there aren’t many better. The fact he’ll likely be an restricted free agent when a new CBA is signed means he doesn’t hold as much value as those above.

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6. Brandon Carr, Kansas City

Age as of September 1st 2011: 25

Free Agent Status: 3 years accrued

2010 Grade: +8.6

Key Stat: Has 32 pass deflections over the past two seasons

Behind the numbers: Still looking for evidence patience is critical to the development of cornerbacks? Well Carr was our worst ranked CB by a fair margin in 2008? Although he may be overshadowed somewhat by his stud teammate, there’s no doubting his talent. Targeted a ridiculous 110 times because Flowers plays opposite him, he allowed just 50 completions. And committed just one penalty. Kansas City should find it easier to retain him considering he’ll likely be a RFA under the new CBA.

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7. Antonio Cromartie, New York Jets

Age as of September 1st 2011: 27

Free Agent Status: 5 years accrued

2010 Grade: -0.5

Key Stat: His reception percentage allowed of 44.6 ranked fourth of all cornerbacks in 2010

Behind the numbers: Cromartie isn’t a bad player but he commits too many penalties (21 in three years) and is far too inconsistent. In the regular season, he had four negatively graded games in the red and four positively graded ones in the green. He’s obviously a useful player against lesser but teams looking for a deep playoff run should probably stay away. Brady, Rodgers and Manning targeted him with considerable success.

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8. Ike Taylor, Pittsburgh

Age as of September 1st 2011: 31

Free Agent Status: 8 years accrued

2010 Grade: -1.9

Key Stat: Allowed just one touchdown in 2010

Behind the numbers: Taylor could provide a low price stop gap to some team if he lands in the right place. He was disappointing in coverage for Pittsburgh this season but he does over versatility with his ability to rush the passer and stop the run. It also shouldn’t be forgotten that he matches up with an opposing team’s number one receiver and thus a lower grade is to be expected.

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9. Michael Adams, Arizona

Age as of September 1st 2011: 26

Free Agent Status: 3 years accrued

2010 Grade: -1.6

Key Stat: Had the best grade of all Arizona’s corners.

Behind the numbers: A team looking for a slot corner back could do worse than Adams. He’s flashed potential rushing the passer in the past (so could do well in an aggressive scheme) and holds his own in coverage. His age suggests he still has more room to grow and he wouldn’t be the worst option of he became available.

Ranking the Free Agents: Cornerbacks
  • bears0492

    Since when was Deangelo Hall a free agent?

    • http://www.profootballfocus.com Ben Stockwell

      Thanks for the spot, not entirely sure where in the process he entered our FA list, clear error on our part.

  • Jersey

    No Richard Mashall?

    • John Breitenbach

      Struggled massively this season and doesn’t have quite the quality of work previously to make the list.

  • throwtoheath

    I cant’t understand how Ike Taylor graded negatively this year. Anyone can see that he vastly improved from 09 when he was one of your lowest rated CBs, but he shut down anquan boldin in the playoff game as well as santonio holmes in the afccg save for the one play where he slipped holmes scored the td. Furthermore, he only allowed 1 TD in the regular season. Is the fact that the steelers play a lot of cover 3 and allow short passes in front of the zone being unfairly used as a negative against Ike?

    • Nathan Jahnke

      First off, yes Ike Taylor was a lot better in 2010 than 2009. Completely agree on stopping Boldin in the playoffs, but the play where he slipped did hurt his rating for the Jets game. His coverage rating was a little below average, which I think is mostly due to a few bad games. Yes he didn’t give up a ton of big plays, but he also didn’t make that many big plays ether. His five regular season pass deflections doesn’t rank him very high, and he also had an above average number of missed tackles. I don’t think its the defense the Steelers play that hurt his rating.

  • maeby

    Just curious as to where Chris Houston would rank among these guys, was he in the conversation for the top-10?