Free agent targets: Cornerback
It’s funny when you look back to the beginning of last year because cornerback was a position the team felt they had good depth in. Yet here we are and cornerback is another are of need for the team heading into free agency. Once again I find myself saying that cornerback is one of the positions that you can never have enough talent. The position group is likely to look much different heading into 2020. Trevor Williams is no longer on the team. Along with the departure of Williams, Michael Davis is coming off a down year which also saw him getting popped for performance enhancing drugs. While Davis is a restricted free agent it is my own gut feeling that he will be back as he provides good and experienced depth. However the team needs a new starter on the outside across from Casey Hayward. The team will likely need two more corners as teams usually need to carry at least 5 corners. Here is a list of some potential fits for the Bolts.
Byron is by far my top choice if it were up to me. I want to say that Jones is the perfect mold in Bradley’s defensive scheme but really he is the perfect fit for any team. Jones is a former first round pick from back in 2015 by the Dallas Cowboys. Jones is not only an absolute physical freak at 6’1” 200 pound’s, he also had one of the most impressive combines ever. Not only did he break a world record in the broad jump with 147 inches (12 foot 3 inches) but he also combined that with a 44.5 inch vertical leap along with an eye popping 6.78 second 3 cone drill. Any one of those 3 feats is amazing let alone all 3 of them. Now we all know that sometimes these things just don’t translate to gameplay and for the first few years of his career they didn’t as he was originally drafted as a safety. In 2018 the team moved him to the cornerback position and it helped him essentially reach his potential. While is stats along with his Pro football focus grades (76.1) aren’t off the charts he doesn’t get tested a whole lot. At just 27 years old it’s hard to imagine that the Cowboys would even let him see free agency the fact remains they are in a position of having to pay so many high quality players in the same offseason that they likely won’t be able to afford to bring him back. Most teams will be salivating over this guy.
Waynes is yet another first round pick except unlike Jones, Waynes has never quit turned it around. Waynes was selected the same year as Jones and his potential is still enough to get him another gig along with a decent contract. With blazing speed (4.31) and decent size (6’0” 190 pounds) Waynes is a player that could benefit from a change of scenery. Now I am admittedly a bit biased when it comes to my level of faith in Bradleys magical touch with defensive backs, but considering Williams and Davis have had flashes of dominance here and there those guys are undrafted talents. So theoretically first round talents should excel under the guidance and in a system that has produced the likes of Richard Sherman, Jalen Ramsey, Earl Thomas, and Casey Hayward.
Darby is the third player on this list from the 2015 draft. Originally drafted by the Buffalo Bills and later traded to the Eagles, Darby was a big part of Philadelphia’s run as super bowl champions in 2017. The fact that Darby is coming off not only a terrible year (45.9 PFF grade) along with the fact he has had two injury riddled seasons in a row could help a team land a top quality player at a discounted price. We all know Tom Telesco is the coupon god so a move like this would not only be likely but also financially beneficial to the team. Darby has averaged a 68 overall grade with a high in 2017 of 78.3 in his 5 year career with the eagles who have been notorious of the last 10 years in having a hard time developing top corner help themselves. This could serve as a high selling point to potential suitors.
Chris Harris Jr:
Chris Harris is a name that is all too familiar with Charger fans as he has been on the division rival Denver Broncos for his entire career. It is also well documented that he and our very own Keenan Allen constantly have had an exchange of words and ego’s. In fact I was almost hesitant to leave him off my list but then I remembered Brandon Flowers and how he flopped from Denver directly to the Chargers, so I decided to include him because you just never know. Harris is coming off his worst season yet and at the age of 31 that could be troubling and considered the start of his decline due to age. Yet it is to be noted that this was the first year he was at outside corner full time for the first time. While the team isn’t in need of a slot corner the idea of not having to be tasked with guarding every single teams number one wide out could also benefit him.
Here is a guy that likely a lot of people won’t like as a potential fit however I’m going to go against the grain on this one. In fact I will even go as far as to say that in Gus Bradley’s system he will excel. He is coming off his worst season yet where he allowed 81% of his passes thrown his way which admittedly isn’t a very good look. However he had pro bowl seasons in both 2016 and 2017. With the Chargers he would be able to play in a lot more zone coverage’s along with the fact that he wouldn’t be covering the opposing teams number 1 receiver anymore could lead to a bounce back. Rhoads could come in on a team friendly deal due to his atrocious 2019 season. A one year prove it deal could pay big dividends and if not then he is gone the following year anyway.
At just 26 years of age Bradberry is a humble a fairly quiet guy who doesn’t get a whole lot of recognition. While he doesn’t put up monster numbers he could still get much better. He would be a candidate that would highly improve in a zone coverage system and just like Rhoads he could benefit from covering the opposing teams receiver number two rather than wide receiver 1. He had 3 interceptions last year along with 12 pass deflection along with 16 pass deflections the year before. Rumors have been that he wants a big payday depending on what he wants will ultimately determine how many teams have interest.
Gus Bradley loves his big bodied corners and at 6’2” Jimmy Smith fits that bill. Not only that but he brings a special type of defensive mentality from a Baltimore organization that prides itself on defense. A former teammate of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and former superbowl champion the knock against Smith is his consistency. The good news with that is I’ve noticed a trend! That trend is he has one good year then two down years then bounces back with a real good year then two down years the again bounces back. Well it just so happen’s that he is due for his bounce back year. Not only that but once again he would benefit from the high repetitions in zone. Signing a guy like smith would also be another team friendly deal. He could likely be acquired on a 1 year deal due to his age and inconsistency.
During the 2014 draft everyone knew that the team’s biggest need that year was cornerback. It just so happened that the guy I wanted the most was Darqeze Dennard. Well he ended up getting picked number 24 overall one pick ahead of the Chargers who ultimately ended up picking Jason Verrett from glass factory university. (That’s not a shot at TCU) While Dennard hasn’t gone on to have an amazing career he has defiantly played well while even having seasons where he graded out in the higher 70’s according to pro football focus. While Dennard may not be the best option that comes to mind he would certainly be cost effective and likely another magic product of Bradley using his magic on yet another corner. While Dennard has mainly played slot corner he does have some experience on the outside and I believe will be better suited there anyways.