Free Agent Market For Cornerbacks

Our list of 2015 free agents provides a comprehensive position-by-position breakdown of which players are eligible to hit the open market this year. However, that list of names doesn’t include much context or additional information about those players. So, with this year’s free agent period fast approaching, we’ve been taking a closer look at the free agent market for each position. Today, we’ll turn our attention to cornerbacks. Let’s dive in….

Top unrestricted FAs:

Maxwell is widely considered to be the top option on the cornerback market, and looks like a good bet to land the biggest contract of the group this month. However, suitors should approach with some caution when considering the Seattle corner, despite the fact that he played a key role for the league’s best secondary. It’s worth noting that the Seahawks locked up all the other starting defensive backs to extensions, but seem willing to let Maxwell walk. Additionally, while Pro Football Focus grades aren’t the be-all, end-all for player evaluation, Maxwell earned just a -0.2 mark in 2014 (subscription required). Besides Tillman, who missed the season with a triceps injury, only Skrine’s PFF grade was lower than that, among this group.

Of those players who graded above Maxwell in 2014, Culliver and Jackson are a couple worth watching. Both corners are entering their age-27 seasons, and ranked in PFF’s top 15 at the position in ’14. Quarterbacks completed just 50.7% of their passes when throwing into Culliver’s coverage, and Jackson limited opposing signal-callers to a passer rating of 74.2 — for comparison’s sake, players like Geno Smith and Brian Hoyer had better overall marks.

Teams targeting cornerbacks in free agency will have to strongly consider how those players will fit in their systems. The 5’9″ Flowers struggled mightily in 2013 while playing for a Chiefs defense that required him to match up in press-man coverage with bigger, more physical receivers, but had a nice bounce-back season in 2014 playing a different style of defense in San Diego.

There are also a couple instances in this group where multiple corners from one team are eligible for free agency, and the Packers and 49ers will have to decide which of their guys they want to retain. Having already invested heavily in Sam Shields, Green Bay seems unlikely to bring back both House and Williams, and the same can be said for the 49ers, who may not have the flexibility to re-sign Culliver and Cox.

Other unrestricted options:

There’s certainly a drop-off from the first tier to most of these players, but for a team looking for some value in a depth signing, there are a few options worth considering.

When Thurmond made the move from the Seahawks to the Giants a year ago, he looked poised to take a larger role, but a torn pectoral prematurely ended his season. He’ll come at a discount this season, and could be a solid No. 3 or 4 corner. Jimmy Wilson took on a greater role in Miami last season, starting 13 games and playing both cornerback and safety. Although he struggled a little at corner, his versatility is appealing.

The results weren’t always pretty, but Fletcher, Newman, Wright, and Tarell Brown all logged more than 800 defensive snaps for their respective clubs in 2014, and with the exception of Brown’s Raiders, all those teams finished above .500. That doesn’t mean they should necessarily be relied upon as starters again, but if they start out in a reduced role and are forced to take on more snaps, at least they have the experience.

Restricted FAs:

Moore is the standout name in this group, and the only player who saw action in more than half of his team’s defensive snaps. The Cowboys obviously have a few more noteworthy free-agents-to-be to deal with, but I don’t expect them to overlook Moore. He’s the best – and perhaps the only – candidate in this group to receive a one-year RFA tender.

Previous looks at the 2015 free agent market:

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