Antonio Cromartie

Colts Release Antonio Cromartie

The Colts announced that they have cut cornerback Antonio Cromartie. The veteran hooked on with Indianapolis in late August but his run with them is already over here in early October. The team also waived inside linebacker Sio Moore.Antonio Cromartie

Indianapolis signed Cromartie in the wake of an injury suffered by Pro Bowler Vontae Davis. However, Cromartie was not able to recapture his old form in four games this season.

Against the Bears, Cromartie suffered an arm injury and it’s not immediately clear how long he may be sidelined with that. Still, Cromartie is immediately eligible for free agency since he is a vested veteran. Any team with interest in Cromartie will check into his arm as well as his troublesome hip injury that has dogged him for a while.

Cromartie, a four-time Pro Bowler, returned to New York last year with the Jets. Pro Football Focus ranked him just 86th out of 111 qualified cornerbacks in 2015.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Sign Antonio Cromartie

The Colts announced that they’ve reached agreement with free agent cornerback Antonio Cromartie. It’s a one-year deal, tweets Tom Pelissero of USA Today. Indianapolis worked out Cromartie, along with some other unknown defensive backs, earlier today.Antonio Cromartie

[RELATED: Colts Remove Henry Anderson From PUP]

Indianapolis is looking for corner help as Pro Bowler Vontae Davis deals with a rolled ankle, and although head coach Chuck Pagano said Davis is “week-to-week,” Pagano has used that terminology before, only to see a player miss extended time, writes Mike Wells of ESPN.com. The Colts signed former Chargers cornerback Patrick Robinson this offseason, and as Roster Resource details, also boast Darius Butler, Jalil Brown, and 2015 third-rounder D’Joun Smith in the secondary.

While Davis is on currently on the mend, Cromartie has also dealt with his own health concerns recently. A report earlier this year indicated that Cromartie’s career could end prematurely due to a hip condition, but the veteran corner strongly denied that story to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “Hell, no. I’m not done,” Cromartie said last month. “My hip wasn’t the problem last year.” 

Cromartie, a 10-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowler, has been on the open market since the Jets released him in February. That was the end of Cromartie’s second stint with New York, which lasted only one season. Pro Football Focus ranked him just 86th out of 111 qualified cornerbacks in 2015.

Cromartie, who is entering his age-32 season, earned an honorable mention on PFR’s recent list of the best available defensive free agents.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Working Out Antonio Cromartie

The Colts are working out Antonio Cromartie and other free agent defensive backs, a source tells Stephen Holder of the Indy Star (on Twitter). The Colts are apparently looking at outside options in the wake of Vontae Davis‘ rolled ankle. Antonio Cromartie

Recently, Cromartie expressed confidence that he would soon land an NFL deal.

I think right now, everyone just wants to see the younger guys, the guys they drafted,” Cromartie said. “But you also have to look at it this way — I’m 32 years old, going into my 11th year. My 2015 campaign wasn’t a great campaign and I think if you look at the first 10 games of the 2015 season it wasn’t great at all for me. My last six games were more like me…I think something is going to happen for me soon so I’m looking forward to it.”

Cromartie, a 10-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowler, has been on the open market since the Jets released him in February. That was the end of Cromartie’s second stint with New York, which lasted only one season. Pro Football Focus ranked him just 86th out of 111 qualified cornerbacks in 2015.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Patriots, Harbor, Hankerson

Former Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie remains on the free agent market, but he believes that he’ll have an NFL deal soon.

I think right now, everyone just wants to see the younger guys, the guys they drafted,” Cromartie told NFL Network. “But you also have to look at it this way — I’m 32 years old, going into my 11th year. My 2015 campaign wasn’t a great campaign and I think if you look at the first 10 games of the 2015 season it wasn’t great at all for me. My last six games were more like me…I think something is going to happen for me soon so I’m looking forward to it.”

Cromartie was heavily linked to the Dolphins this offseason, but coach Adam Gase apparently isn’t a huge fan of his. Miami auditioned Cromartie earlier this summer and although they said they’d keep his number handy, they have since signed Chris Culliver to help round out their CB group. Cromartie seemed to hint that he is receiving interest, but it’s not clear exactly who is reaching out to him at this stage of the offseason.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

Dolphins Unlikely To Sign Antonio Cromartie

Multiple reports in recent months have linked the Dolphins to free agent Antonio Cromartie, but it turns out head coach Adam Gase isn’t a fan of the 32-year-old cornerback, a source told Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (Twitter link). Gase’s aversion to Cromartie stems from the success the former offensive coordinator’s attacks had against the defender in the past, according to Salguero.

Antonio Cromartie

[RELATED: NFL Reinstates Dion Jordan]

Cromartie, a 10-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowler, has been on the open market since the Jets released him in February. That was the end of Cromartie’s second stint with New York, which lasted only one season. It’s worth noting that his first, from 2010-13, began via trade when Dolphins executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum was Gang Green’s general manager. Given Gase’s opinion of Cromartie, though, it seems as if Cromartie’s connection to Tannenbaum won’t be enough to make a reunion in Miami possible.

Aside from Byron Maxwell, the Dolphins are lacking proven options at corner, as their depth chart shows, but Salguero reported Thursday that they’re “pretty comfortable” with their current group. With second-round rookie Xavien Howard on the sidelines after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in June, the Dolphins are down to Tony Lippett as the starter opposite Maxwell. Lippett didn’t play much as a fifth-round rookie last year, however, and was a receiver at Michigan State. Gase has expressed confidence that Howard will be back in time for Week 1, but that would mean missing all of camp and the preseason, placing the first-year man behind the 8-ball immediately.

Thanks to their paucity of high-end corners, it seems the Dolphins could use more help at the position – especially after their 2015 pass defense finished 29th in DVOA and 27th in both YPA and quarterback rating against (7.8 and 97.4, respectively). That aid won’t come from Cromartie, it appears, and even if Gase did want him, it’s debatable how much he’s capable of contributing at this point. Cromartie is coming off a poor season, one in which Pro Football Focus ranked his performance 87th among 111 qualified corners, and reportedly has a hip issue that could threaten his career.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Jets, Fitz, Jordan, Cromartie

It sounds like we shouldn’t expect much to change between the Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick this week. As training camp approaches, it doesn’t appear that the two sides are any closer to a deal, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. Fitzpatrick has touched base with teammate Brandon Marshall after multiple weeks without contact, but it’s not clear when or if the two will be reunited on the field.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • If the NFL doesn’t reinstate Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan before his roster bonus due on the fifth day of camp, his representatives will file a grievance, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report tweets. Jordan’s camp will also push back if the Dolphins move to wipe out the $1.69MM payout (Twitter link). Jordan applied for reinstatement almost two months ago, but has yet to hear back from the NFL. Some execs in Miami’s front office do not want to give Jordan that kind of money following his third drug suspension.
  • Although Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link) hears that Antonio Cromartie‘s hip issues could end his career, the former Jets cornerback denies that he’s ready to hang up his cleats. “Hell, no. I’m not done,” Cromartie told Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). “My hip wasn’t the problem last year.” Cromartie was highly ineffective in 15 starts for Gang Green last season, but he did earn an honorable mention on PFR’s list of the best available defensive free agents.
  • Running backs LeGarrette Blount and James White could be on the roster bubble when the Patriots break camp in a few weeks, writes Doug Kyed of NESN.com. Blount has acted as New England’s power back for the past several years, and scored six touchdowns in that role last season, while White has been a valuable asset as a pass-catcher. But as Roster Resource shows, the Pats are well-stocked in their backfield, with Dion Lewis, Donald Brown, Brandon Bolden, and Tyler Gaffney among the club’s other options. Lewis, recovering from a torn ACL, could begin the year on the PUP list, which could open up a spot for another runner.

Dolphins Not Pursuing Hall, Cromartie At This Time

The Dolphins traded for Byron Maxwell earlier this offseason just two days after releasing Brent Grimes, and given Maxwell’s disappointing 2015 campaign in Philadelphia–combined with Miami’s largely inexperienced cornerback corps–one would think that the Fins might be one of the primary suitors for veteran corners Antonio Cromartie and Leon Hall. As Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald writes, however, that is not the case. Jackson says that both Hall and Cromartie are on the Dolphins’ radar should the team suffer injuries at the cornerback position or if its young corners do not develop as expected, but so far, the Dolphins are pleased with their young guns and want them to continue taking as many meaningful reps as possible.

Antonio Cromartie

Hall, the longtime Bengal, is currently rated as PFR’s second-best defensive player still on the market, while Cromartie received an honorable mention (Brandon Boykin and Chris Culliver, two other veteran corners that the Dolphins could theoretically bring in, rated as the fifth- and seventh-best free agent defenders, respectively). Hall is not the the boundary defender he used to be, but the 31-year-old still figures to be productive in the slot, and his veteran presence and high football IQ would surely be welcome in South Beach. Indeed, the Cowboys, Cardinals, Giants, and Falcons have all expressed varying levels of interest in Hall, suggesting that his services are at least somewhat in demand.

However, he has been plagued by health issues throughout his career, and an offseason back procedure will not alleviate clubs’ concerns about his injury history. Plus, the Dolphins think highly of second-year player Bobby McCain and would like to see him start in the slot (which would also help explain Miami’s apparent lack of interest in Boykin).

Cromartie, meanwhile, has not garnered much, if any, interest from other teams after he was released by the Jets back in February. He had earned three consecutive Pro Bowl nods from 2012 to 2014, earning him a four-year, $32MM deal with the Jets last March, but he was not as effective as usual during his first season back in New York after a one-year stint in Arizona (Pro Football Focus ranked him 86th out of 111 qualified cornerbacks). He has frequently struggled with getting burned by opposing receivers, but he has largely been able to compensate for those problems with a high level of playmaking ability. As he gets older, though, the interceptions will likely diminish while his coverage deficiencies will be further exploited, so if the Dolphins were to pursue a veteran corner, Cromartie is probably not the best option.

Miami’s present stance on free agent corners may also be influenced by Maxwell’s performance in the early stages of the offseason. As James Walker of ESPN.com wrote several days ago, Maxwell has been one of the most impressive players in the Dolphins’ early workouts, and this morning Walker tabbed Maxwell as one of the team’s two standout players in OTAs (Twitter link). If Miami can get a bounceback year from Maxwell, and if players like McCain, Xavien Howard, and Tony Lippett progress as hoped, the club could have a strong stable of defensive backs.

Nonetheless, that is a lot of “ifs,” and given the importance of strong cornerback play in the NFL, it would not be surprising to see Miami change course and sign a veteran CB or two in the near future (the Dolphins did bring in Greg Toler for a workout several months ago, though that was before they selected Howard in this year’s draft). But for the time being, the team’s young corners will apparently get ample opportunity to prove their worth.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Best Available NFL Free Agents: Defense

The most high-profile free agent signings occurred more than two months ago, but as we near June there are still talented NFL free agents available on the open market. Most of these players (with a few exceptions) won’t command much guaranteed money, and given that we’ve passed the May 12 deadline, none will factor into the compensatory draft pick formula. After examining the offensive side of the ball yesterday, let’s take a look at the defensive players who will try to find a home as training camp approaches…Donte Whitner (Veritcal)

1. Donte Whitner, S: Despite being released by the Browns last month, Whitner is still an excellent player, having graded as the league’s No. 24 safety among 89 qualifiers in 2015, per Pro Football Focus. Remarkably durable (he’s missed only three games in the past six years), Whitner visited with the Rams in early April, and is reportedly still on Los Angeles’ radar. Elsewhere, both the Chargers and the Cowboys could make sense as potential landing spots if San Diego and Dallas want to upgrade on Jahleel Addae and Barry Church, respectively.

2. Leon Hall, CB: Hall hasn’t lacked suitors this offseason, as the Cowboys, Cardinals, Giants, and Falcons have all shown varying levels of interest in the 31-year-old cornerback over the past several months. He’s not the boundary defender that he used to be, but Hall is a productive slot corner, which essentially makes him a starter in today’s NFL. Health questions have nagged Hall throughout his entire career, and an offseason back procedure won’t quiet those concerns, but the former Bengal figures to find a new home sooner rather than later.

3. Greg Hardy, DE: Clearly the best defender on this list in terms of pure talent, Hardy’s off-the-field issues don’t need to be rehashed here. The 27-year-old edge rusher and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, are apparently lobbying NFL clubs for an opportunity, detailing the steps Hardy has taken to correct his pattern of behavior. However, it doesn’t appear as though many teams are convinced Hardy has changed his tune, as sources told Ed Werder of ESPN.com that no one is interested in Hardy, with executives calling him — at best — a “hard sell” to ownership and — at worst — “toxic.”
Dwight Freeney (Vertical)

4. Dwight Freeney, LB/DE: Freeney spent roughly a third of the 2015 season at home, waiting until the Cardinals called in October to get back on an NFL field. Now 36 years old, Freeney has become something of a cause célèbre of mine, as I think he’s a far more valuable player than the league apparently does. I outlined Freeney’s tools in April of last year, and much of what I wrote at the time still holds — any number of clubs could benefit from allowing Freeney to get after the quarterback 20-25 times per game. A reunion with Arizona isn’t out of the question, and the Ravens, Bengals, Panthers, Jets, Patriots, Lions, Chiefs, and Bills could all use an extra edge rusher.

5. Brandon Boykin, CB: At age 25, Boykin surprisingly had to settle for a minimum salary benefit contract to join the Panthers in March — he lasted less than two months on the roster, as he was released by Carolina earlier this week. That series of events, coupled with Boykin’s relative lack of playing time after being dealt to the Steelers last year, is hard to figure, as Boykin is considered one of the premier slot corners in the game. With teams lining up in sub packages more than 60% of the time, Boykin is capable of playing a substantial role, and shouldn’t stay on the street for long.

6. Mike Neal, LB: Neal started a career-high 15 games last season, and has posted at least four sacks in each of the past four years. He’s met with both the Lions and the Seahawks this offseason, but has yet to sign a contract, and would seemingly only be in line for a one-year pact at this point. The Packers selected fellow linebacker Kyler Fackrell in the third round of last month’s draft, so Green Bay probably isn’t an option (though Neal is open to returning). It’s possible that the 2015 Al Jazeera report that linked Neal to PEDs is hindering his market, a sentiment with which Neal agrees.Chris Culliver (Vertical)

7. Chris Culliver, CB: It’s been a trying 12 months or so for Culliver, whose 2015 one-game suspension voided his 2016 $8MM guarantee, making it much easier for Washington to release him — which they did earlier this month. Culliver, 27, also tore his ACL in November, meaning his availability for the start of the season could be in doubt. But Culliver is the one true outside cornerback on this list, and he has also has youth on his side. A smart team might sign Culliver to a two-year deal with limited or no guarantees for the 2017 season, let him rehab for the first half of 2016, and then evaluate him over the course of November and December.

8. Antrel Rolle, S: Rolle isn’t going to get the same kind of offers that fellow safety Whitner will — not only is he more than three years older, but Rolle ranked a little lower among safeties than did Whitner, coming in at No. 39 in the NFL according to PFF. Rolle has expressed an interest in reuniting with the Giants, with whom he spent the 2010-14 seasons, and on paper, it’s a match that makes a lot of sense, as New York needs a rangy free safety opposite Landon Collins. The Rams, Falcons, and Buccaneers could have interest in the veteran defensive back, as could the Colts if they plan to move 2016 second-rounder T.J. Green to cornerback, as has been rumored.

9. O’Brien Schofield, LB: Schofield and the Falcons were said to be working on a deal as far back as early March, but no signing ever came to fruition. At the time, the Cowboys, Bears, and Titans were reported to have interest in Schofield, and while he’s expressed his preference to return to Atlanta, he remains a free agent. Head coach Dan Quinn has stated he hopes that Schofield is re-signed, and the Falcons have in fact made an offer. Primarily a nickel linebacker, Schofield agreed to a two-year deal with the Giants in 2014 only to see it fall apart due to medical concerns — it’s unclear whether his current disagreement with Atlanta is due to injury questions or financial disparities.

10. Jeremy Mincey, DE: At 32 years old, Mincey isn’t going to suddenly blossom into a star, but he’s more than capable of being thrown into a defensive end rotation on a team that runs a 4-3 scheme. Mincey didn’t post any sacks last season, but he registered six quarterback takedowns in 2014, which led to him holding out for an extra $500K the following offseason. The Cowboys reportedly aren’t interested in a reunion, but Mincey did generate some level of trade interest last November, so it’s likely that there are clubs who’d be willing to offer a one-year deal.

Honorable mention: Chris Canty, DL; Henry Melton, DT; Kevin Williams, DT; Cortez Allen, CB; Antonio Cromartie, CB; Cortland Finnegan, CB; Jayron Hosley, CB; Will Allen, S.

Safety Walter Thurmond was not included on this list because he’s contemplating retirement and has reportedly turned down offers of $4MM per year.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

CB Notes: Giants, Cromartie, Cardinals, 49ers

Passing yardage totals have risen in the NFL every year since 2008, and in 2015 reached an all-time high, with the average club throwing for 243.8 yards per game. As such, not only are quarterback and wide receiver salaries increasing, but those who are paid to defend the pass — namely cornerbacks — are seeing their earnings increase, as well. Let’s take a look at the latest on the cornerback market:

  • The Giants invested heavily in their secondary over the past several months, signing free agent cornerback Janoris Jenkins to a five-year deal and selecting Ohio State corner Eli Apple with the No. 10 pick in last month’s draft. But the club might not be finished upgrading, according to Jordan Raanan of NJ.com, who expects New York to bring in a veteran corner who can man the slot. The Giants have been linked to several experienced cover men recently, including Jerraud Powers (who was reportedly offered approximately $2MM before signing with the Ravens) and Leon Hall, who visited the team last week. Chris Culliver, Alan Ball, Trumaine McBride, and Charles Tillman are among the corners still left on the market.
  • Having lost the aforementioned Powers to Baltimore, the Cardinals don’t have a ton of depth in the defensive backfield, and might not even have a clear starter opposite Patrick Peterson, as Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com details. Free agent (and former Cardinal) Antonio Cromartie doesn’t seem to be on the club’s radar, per Weinfuss, which would leave Justin Bethel as the best option to start. Bethel’s strengths lie on special teams, however, and third-round corner Brandon Williams might need some time to develop after having played CB for just one season at Texas A&M.
  • 49ers general manager Trent Baalke has selected three corners in each of the past two drafts, and as Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com explains, the San Francisco executive clearly understands the need to accumulate secondary depth. “I think you’re seeing that trend league-wide,” Baalke said. “There’s a premium put on those players. It’s going to be extremely important moving forward to create as much depth and competition at that position as you can.” Maiocco touches on several other topics within the piece, including what the 49ers will do with their nearly $50MM in cap space, and why the club is unlikely to reunite with veteran receiver Anquan Boldin.

East Notes: Hardy, Dolphins, Cardona, Jets

As we heard on Thursday, agent Drew Rosenhaus continues to lobby on behalf of his client Greg Hardy, who is still seeking an NFL job. Despite Rosenhaus’ insistence that the former Cowboys defensive end is working to correct his pattern of bad behavior, teams around the NFL remain skeptical, according to Ed Werder of ESPN.com, who tweets that the “prevailing opinion” among general managers is that nobody wants Hardy.

Quoting multiple general managers, Werder reports that one GM said ownership would have to be involved on any Hardy deal, and most owners would steer clear (Twitter link). Another GM said Hardy would be a “very hard sell,” while another called the veteran pass rusher “toxic.” That last GM added: “[He’s] obviously desperate and saying the right things” (Twitter links).

As we wait to see if Rosenhaus’ sales pitch lands Hardy a job anywhere, let’s round up a few more notes from around the NFL’s East divisions…

  • While defensive coordinator Vance Joseph insists the Dolphins are good to go at cornerback, the team has internally discussed adding another veteran, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, who suggests that Leon Hall and Antonio Cromartie are among the possibilities. Both Jackson and Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald took a closer look at the cornerback situation in Miami, exploring whether or not another free agency addition seems likely.
  • Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona, who played his college ball at Navy, is expected to continue his NFL career in 2016. Paul Pabst of the Dan Patrick Show tweeted today that Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that Cardona’s request to continue playing in the NFL has been approved. However, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com (Twitter links) cautions that one more “layer of approval” is still required — it’s looking good for Cardona, but it’s not official yet, says Reiss.
  • Brian Costello of the New York Post identifies five boom-or-bust players who will have a significant impact on the Jets‘ fortunes in 2016, including newly-signed running back Matt Forte.