5 BEST CORNERBACKS STILL AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY
By the time the pixilated ink dries on this article, there’s a chance one or more of these men will be snapped up by a corner-needy team. Such is the market for cornerbacks as squads have to continually find a way to match up to three-wide looks, tight ends that can catch like receivers and running backs who can run pass routes.
This is a premier list of talent and I expect every one of these players to be signed before training camp begins (as long as they still want to play).
5. NICKELL ROBEY-COLEMAN formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles
2020: 44 tackles, two for a loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one pass defended
Robey-Coleman was one of the best slot corners in the league just two years ago, but like everyone else involved in the collapse of the 2020 Philadelphia Eagles, his performance took a hit. NRC is probably most famous for the uncalled pass interference penalty in the 2019 NFC Championship games where the Los Angeles Rams upset the New Orleans Saints.
Perfect fit: Chicago Bears
The Bears never got what they needed out of former first round pick Artie Burns and are now trying to cobble a corner unit together. No reason to put the tack-hammer down just yet. Robey-Coleman would likely be the second best corner on the roster after Desmond Trufant, who’s played 15 games over the last two seasons due to injury.
4. DRE KIRKPATRICK formerly of the Arizona Cardinals
2020: 56 tackles, seven passes defended, three interceptions
After a solid first year with the Cardinals, Kirkpatrick is back on the street. The former Alabama star spent all but one season of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals. After a slow start for a first round pick to his career, he took over as a full time starter in his fourth season and played well enough to get a second contract.
Perfect fit: New Orleans Saints
The Saints are kind of a mess right now, after the retirement of Drew Brees and a salary cap that is downright unkind. After parting ways with Janoris Jenkins this offseason, they had a huge hole at corner. They did pick u Paulson Adebo out of Stanford in the third round of April’s draft. With rumors swirling that Marshon Lattimore is on the trade block, New Orleans needs to add some low priced guys that can start and can’t waste time doing it.
3. BUSTER SKRINE formerly of the Chicago Bears
2020: 66 tackles, one for a loss, one forced fumble, three passes defended
Skrine started his career as a fifth round pick for the Cleveland Browns. He worked his way into the starting line up as a second-year player and remained there off and on through stops with the New York Jets and Chicago Bears. With Chicago, Skrine mainly played No. 3, which is all but a starter with all the three-wide predominant in today’s offenses.
Perfect fit: Pittsburgh Steelers
While Pittsburgh is set at corners 1 and 2, everything beyond that is a question mark. They didn’t select a defensive back until the seventh round of April’s draft, Tre Norwood out of Oklahoma. He’s on the depth chart now as a safety. Their corners are so shallow that ESPN lists undrafted rookie Shakur Brown as their No. 4. This team needs some help and a wily veteran like Skrine could handle the slot duties after doing the dirty work in Chicago, New York and Cleveland.
2. RICHARD SHERMAN formerly of the San Francisco 49ers
2020: 18 tackles, one for a loss, one forced fumble, one interception
Sherman might be wrapping up a Hall of Fame career, so there’s a good chance he could choose not to play at all and instead hit the analyst booth. After an injury shortened 2020, I feel like he’ll want to go out in his cleats and not on his Barcalounger. Just two seasons ago, Sherman had one of his best years, recording 61 tackles, 11 passes defended, three interceptions and one defensive touchdown in the San Francisco 49ers’ Super Bowl run. He was playing that well last season until he was hit with injuries.
Perfect fit: Dallas Cowboys
Dallas has a dumpster fire in its defensive backfield and did its best to address it in the NFL draft, spending three picks on corners. They nabbed Kelvin Joseph out of Kentucky in the second round, Nahshon Wright of Oregon State in the third and Israel Makuamu from South Carolina in the sixth. Sherman is the exact kind of vet the Cowboys usually sign, and one that can desperately help a young secondary.
1. GAREON CONLEY formerly of the Houston Texans
2020: Did Not Play
Conley spent last season in injured reserve with the Texans after the team spent a third rounder in a trade to wrestle him away from the then Oakland Raiders in 2019. Between both teams, Conley recorded 50 tackles, an interception and 13 passes defended. It was the second solid season for the former first round pick, who shook off his bust status, but still finds himself unemployed.
Perfect fit: Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks have been hemorrhaging defensive talent for years, spending their money on the offensive side of the ball. As such, a young guy like Conley that’s shown a lot of promise and first round ability would be a smart addition for a team that made just three selections total in April’s draft. They did pick Oklahoma’s Tre Brown in the fourth round. They currently have D.J. Reed Jr. and the oft abused Ahkello Witherspoon penciled in as their starters. Conley would probably be an upgrade over both. One they desperately need with Kyler Murray entering his third year in Arizona, Jimmy Garoppolo (and Tre Lance) in San Francisco and newly-acquired Matthew Stafford joining the Los Angeles Rams.
The NFL season begins on Thursday, Sep. 9 and the Week 1 Schedule is already up and taking bets at BetOnline.AG.