Top 8 cornerbacks about to hit free agency

Adam Jones sits at No. 3 on our list of the best CBs about to hit the market. See who rounds out the top 10.

| 8 months ago
(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

Top 8 cornerbacks about to hit free agency

The cornerback position will be a priority for many teams this offseason as they try to improve the back end of their defenses.

Below are PFF’s top eight cornerback free agents entering the 2016 NFL offseason.

(Editor’s note: This list was updated on March 2, 2016, removing Josh Norman and Trumaine Johnson, previously No. 1 and No. 5, respectively.)

1. Sean Smith

2015 team: Kansas City Chiefs

Since joining the Chiefs in 2013, Smith has earned positive coverage and overall grades in each of his three seasons. His 2014 campaign was his most impressive, as he earned the second-highest coverage grade among cornerbacks while he also avoided being penalized a single time all season—a remarkable feat these days, given how often flags are thrown for coverage penalties. Smith is not an elite corner, but he has proven over the last two seasons that he is a solid No. 1 cornerback.

2. Casey Hayward

2015 team: Green Bay Packers

Hayward’s best season came as a rookie in 2012, as he earned the third-highest coverage grade for cornerbacks that season and won our Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He was injured most of the following years, and he hasn’t quite reached that same level of play since, but has still played well over the last couple years He has earned above-average coverage grades in each of his four seasons, ranking 14th and 21st at the position the last two seasons. He has proven capable of playing on the outside now, but he is still at his best when playing in the slot.

3. Adam Jones

2015 team: Cincinnati Bengals

Jones has been a solid player in the Bengals’ secondary since signing with the team in 2011. He has never finished with a below-average coverage grade in the PFF-era. He’s coming off his second-highest coverage grade over that time, and allowed a passer rating of 60.0 when targeted by opposing quarterbacks. One weakness for Jones, though, is his propensity for missed tackles, with 35 over the last three seasons. Jones turns 33 years old in September, and would really only be a short-term solution, but he could certainly help tighten up a secondary as an outside corner.

4. Janoris Jenkins

2015 team: St. Louis Rams

We’ve come to expect big plays when quarterbacks target Janoris Jenkins, but those could be either good plays made by Jenkins, or big plays that he has allowed. Over his four-year career, Jenkins has allowed five or more touchdowns in every season (22 total), and missed 56 tackles in 60 games. However, Jenkins has also had 13 or more combined interceptions and pass defenses in three of his four seasons. He has improved over time, and is coming off his highest-graded season in coverage, where he ranked 30th among cornerbacks. Jenkins will make some impactful plays on defense, but he has shown over the last few years that he is susceptible to giving them up, as well.

5. Prince Amukamara

2015 team: New York Giants

Amukamara hasn’t quite lived up to his selection in the first-round of the 2011 draft, but injuries have had a lot to do with that. He missed multiple games in four of his five seasons as a pro, and might have been higher on this list if not for the perpetual injuries. When he is on the field, he has shown he is a capable starter. He doesn’t make the big, splashy plays often, but he has consistently graded above average over the last four seasons.

6. Patrick Robinson

2015 team: San Diego Chargers

Robinson is set to hit free agency for the second year in a row after signing a one-year deal with the Chargers last offseason. After having his ups and downs in New Orleans, the former first-round pick put together one of the better seasons of his short career. Robinson allowed 30 or more yards receiving just once all season, and ranked in the top third of cornerbacks in coverage grade. But his inconsistency prior to his San Diego stint is still a bit concerning.

7. Leon Hall

2015 team: Cincinnati Bengals

There was a time when Hall was among some of the best cover corners in the league, particularly in the slot. He was on his way to a potential career-year in 2013 before a second Achilles injury cut his season short. Even though he is not quite the same player he used to be, he has earned above-average coverage grades in each of his nine seasons in the league. Hall is best when playing in the slot, a position that not every cornerback can play. With the abundance of spread looks in the NFL, Hall can make a large contribution even if he’s not a starter.

8. Brandon Boykin

2015 team: Pittsburgh Steelers

Just a few seasons ago in 2013, Boykin was among our highest-graded cornerbacks in coverage. After being traded to Pittsburgh for a late-round draft pick prior to the start of this season, he hardly saw the field for much of the season. The Steelers finally gave him more playing in Week 13, and he played well. He had one interception, two pass defenses, and allowed a passer rating of 65.0 over the final five weeks of the regular season.

| Analyst

Matt has been an analyst for PFF since 2013. He is also a contributor to 120 Sports and a former NCAA Division-III football player.

  • mingkc2

    Expected to see Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins as 2 and 3.

    • techvet

      As a Packers fan, I didn’t realize Hayward would be that high.

  • Ralph Clark

    Most of Boykin playing had to do with tomlin

    • LostAlone

      IIRC it was so they would trade a lower draft pick for him. I’d be genuinely stunned if the Steelers let him go. Their secondary is so poor that they just can’t afford to.

      • Moneypenny76

        Tomlin plays favorites and actually prefers Antwon Blake… Ranked the second worst CB in the league. He will probably resign Blake so the secondary can continue to suck. Honestly, I doubt Pittsburgh could resign Boykin… They treated him so badly he probably can’t wait to get out of town. I wish Boykin the best… He did a great job with the limited opportunity he was given and never complained or became a locker room problem.

      • Michael Pearce

        Boykin is long gone from Pittsburgh. Not a chance that he stays..

  • gbFan12

    According to my fellow Packer fans, Hayward was trash and awful while AJ Hawk was the greatest MLB of all time. SMH.

    • Jefferson

      LMAO, every informed Packer fan I’ve ever talked to or read comments from knows that Hawk’s departure from Green Bay was LONG overdue. MLB has been a glaring weakness for a dog’s age and is the cause of continual crapping on Capers & Thompson. I have to assume your post has a tinge of sarcasm.

      • MacJacMcCoy

        Well that’s the problem isn’t it? There aren’t a lot of I formed packers fans. Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of them, their just not very knowledgeable. I’m with Gbfan12 the majority of packers fans that I see in comment sections or message boards throw out hawks name every time there is a discussion about the best or most underrated lbs in the nfl. There tends to be a whole lot of homerism from packers fans when ever a conversation comes up about their players, or when talks start and 1 of their players aren’t mentiined.

        I hate to tell you packers fans but you do not have 1 of the best or most underrated players at every position on the field.

  • Mattia Rizzo

    I want Boykin to play slot corner in NE.

  • Brit

    Pretty weak FA CBs going to make it to market.

  • Erdnase

    Boykin sucks against the run, thats the problem with these rankings pro football focus doesnt know that in some schemes the corners have to make damn tackles not just cover.

  • Calijustice

    Raiders need two of them

  • TheTruthNow

    Hey Raiders fans, Sean Smith is over rated, slow, and at the end of his career. 40 Mil over 4 years? We in KC say HE IS ALL YOURS! Watch us LIGHT HIM UP! C YA SEAN! We will replace him easily. Cant wait for the two games we have with the Raiders this year. Now both teams are good enough to make it interesting. Without a QB and the major losses on D the Broncos will fade. And the Chargers!? Well they are the Chargers! My pick for the division is the Chiefs and the Raiders get the wild card! What do you think