Losing Levi Wallace in free agency, the Bills have a cornerback need a week away from the draft. The two-time defending AFC East champions will be linked to corners early, but they are still looking into the veteran market. Brandon Beane confirmed the team has spoken with free agent corners, via The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia (on Twitter). While Stephon Gilmore is now off the board, several other accomplished vets remain available. The player Gilmore is set to replace in Indianapolis, Xavier Rhodes, is a free agent. So is Joe Haden, whom the Steelers appear to have replaced with Wallace. Buffalo has Taron Johnson as its slot cornerback, so boundary players would seemingly be the focus on the veteran front. Jackrabbit Jenkins‘ Titans contract expired, and Trae Waynes and Kyle Fuller loom as potential bounce-back candidates. Richard Sherman is set to turn 34 this year, but he has a career’s worth of high-end zone production.
Here is the latest from the cornerback scene:
- Lovie Smith indicated his team needs cornerback help, and it might even come at No. 3 overall. Several teams believe Ahmad Gardner could be the Texans‘ choice at 3, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler tweets. Houston has also done extensive work on LSU’s Derek Stingley. Given where they are in the rebuilding process, the Texans make sense as a true best-player-available team. That would seemingly point to a tackle choice — be it Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu — but corner buzz has followed this team for a bit now.
- Stingley played just 10 games between the 2020 and ’21 seasons, seeing injuries slow his momentum after a dominant freshman season. But the LSU product is creeping into the top-10 picture, with ESPN.com’s Matt Miller noting Stingley and Gardner are looking likely to each be top-10 selections (Twitter link). The 6-foot defender, per one evaluator who spoke to NBC Sports’ Peter King, has “the best feet of any corner I’ve ever seen.” Mel Kiper Jr.’s most recent ESPN.com mock draft has Gardner going fourth to the Jets and Stingley going 12th to the Vikings. The Jaguars and Jets hosted Stingley on visits this week, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
- The Washington Huskies could see two corners go in the first round. With Trent McDuffie positioning himself as the draft’s third-best corner, Miller adds a few teams do not expect Kyler Gordon to reach Day 2 of the draft (Twitter link). ESPN ranks Gordon 31st overall, though Todd McShay has him going 42nd in he and Kiper’s latest mock. The 5-foot-11 defender played four seasons at Washington, but only two (2019 and ’21) involved more than three games.
- New Giants GM Joe Schoen said a scenario exists where the Giants retain James Bradberry, via SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano (on Twitter). Entering the final year of his contract, Bradberry has long expected to be dealt. The Giants have discussed their No. 1 corner with teams, and while they have said an extension for the Dave Gettleman-era signee is possible, Bradberry’s $21.9MM cap number sits second on Big Blue’s payroll. The Giants ($6MM-plus in cap space) would save more than $11MM by designating Bradberry as a post-June 1 cut, if no team offers a draft pick to take on the veteran cover man’s $13.4MM base salary.
- Denzel Ward‘s five-year, $100.5MM Browns extension includes $44.5MM fully guaranteed, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. That figure also leads all corners. In addition to his signing bonus, the Browns fully guaranteed Ward’s 2022 and ’23 base salaries ($1MM, $4MM, respectively). Ward’s 2024 base ($15.3MM) shifts from an injury guarantee to a full guarantee on Day 3 of the 2023 league year. That same structure is present for 2025, with that base salary ($13.5MM) already being guaranteed for injury. It becomes fully guaranteed on Day 3 of the 2024 league year.