After Wildcard Weekend we are down to eight NFL teams that have fan bases who still have something to look forward to this season. For the rest of us that don’t have a dog in the fight (sorry, couldn’t resist), the fans that are hung over from a season of indulging in disappointments, it's time for you to pick yourself up off the floor and start looking forward to the 2011 season (We are going on the assumption here that there will be a NFL season next, thinking about it any other way is simply too depressing.) We’ve all heard the phrase, "there's always next year" and for the 31 teams that don't host the Lombardi trophy at the end of the season, that phrase is all their fans have to go by for the next six months.
Educated NFL fans have made the game a year long season. There’s no off season anymore for rabid fans as they thirst for knowledge of what their team has to do to find the missing pieces and make their puzzle complete. Is it a new coach? A different scheme? New personnel? The last piece mentioned, new personnel, that's what I like to concentrate on. Are they going to go with rookies or veteran free agents? Some like to live and die with one and abandon the other. I for one believe you should limit your options and simply go with whoever makes you a better team. It shouldn't matter if they are 1st year player or 10 year veteran. Teams don't need to limit themselves on what they're capable of doing.
That brings us to where we are now. Outside of quarterback, I believe that the cornerback position is the toughest position to play. The cornerback has to mirror the movements of some of the fastest players in the game. They have to switch their hips with the quickness of a cat. If they are caught out of position it can change the whole momentum of the game. The top cornerbacks are paid like quarterbacks because the talent they share is a rarity. For these reasons along with the high failure rate of cornerbacks drafted, I'm going to list some top free agents cornerbacks that teams who were at the bottom of the league in pass defense should make a play for. These are players that can help a team make that final step up to a Super Bowl caliber squad. So, here's the list of the most talented players.
1) Nnamdi Asomugha 6’2” - 210 lbs - 29 yrs old: He can instantly come in and shut down half of the field to opposing quarterbacks. He doesn't play both sides, so teams could move their #1 receiving threat away from Nnamdi. For this reason you don't want him to go to a team with a cornerback starting on the other side with a lot of holes in his games. Teams would just match their top talent on the weaker CB and attack him the whole game. (I think the Baltimore Ravens would be a great fit. Nnamdi would fit in great with the play style of Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. Baltimore has been abused in the passing game this year. Reed could shade to cornerback opposite of Nnamdi and leave Asomugha on an island by himself.)
2) Champ Bailey 6'0” - 192 lbs - 32 yrs old: I only list Bailey below Asomugha because of age. I believe that Champ played one of his best seasons this year and is still at the top of his game. He doesn't have as many years left as Asomugha though. The thing with Bailey that none of the other corners give you is his on field coaching ability. Champ made Darrent Williams a great cornerback before his tragic passing (Rest in Peace). Bailey has coached up Denver's rookies, Perrish Cox and Syd'Quan Thompson this year. He'll come in and give a team 3 good years and mentor the younger cornerbacks on the team so they'll be ready to step up after he leaves. (I see the Houston Texans as the ideal fit because of their need and them having the youngest cornerbacks in the league. Bailey could help mold them.)
3) Johnathan Joseph 5'11” - 190 lbs - 26 yrs old: He'll probably be resigned by Cincinnati but I put him on the list just in case. Joseph is probably one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the league. He should be a household name and was part of one of the top tandems with Leon Hall in Cincinnati. He could go somewhere and easily better their pass defense. (The Carolina Panthers will probably not resign Richard Marshall this off season. They could bring in an upgrade like Joseph and he would really mesh with the young talented defense in Carolina. If Ron Rivera gets the job, I would seem to think that this would be his type of guy.)
4) Brent Grimes 5’10” - 181 lbs - 27 yrs old: Your average fan doesn't really know who Grimes is but let me tell you that he'll be in the conversation with Revis, Asomugha, and Bailey if he keeps playing like he has the past two years. Any team should jump at the chance to sign Grimes. He's only 27 and he had 23 pass defended and 5 interceptions this year. That's following a year where he had 13 pass defended and 6 INT’s. Atlanta would be insane to not resign him but can they afford to pay him after the money they gave to Dunta Robinson last season. (Grimes seems like the prototypical Jim Schwartz guy. If you haven't been paying attention to the defense Schwartz is building in for the Detroit Lions, you need to. Grimes could come in next year and help make the Lions a top 5 defense. Call me crazy now, but I'll expect your apology next year.)
5) Antonio Cromartie 6'2” - 210 lbs - 26 yrs old: I personally love corners with good size and speed. That's exactly what Cromartie possesses. Rex Ryan seems to really like Cromartie but was disappointed by the way Garcon worked him in the Wildcard game on Saturday. I could see Ryan going away from him and seeing if Kyle Wilson could take over his spot. If the Jets don't resign him, you know some teams will be skeptical of his off the field issues. If the other four guys on this list are gone, then I would gladly stand behind my team making a play for him. (Raheem Morris only seems to worry about results and doesn't care about off the field issues. If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can get a deal on Cromartie, I doubt Morris would hesitate to place Antonio opposite of Aqib Talib. That would be a tough defense to face…. If they could stay out of trouble.)
I realize that some of the players mentioned could come to terms with their current teams. My point is that if your team is out of it, it’s already time for some Hot Stove NFL talk and that starts with upgrading the team personnel of your favorite team. If your team is in the bottom of the league in pass defense this year, there is no reason they shouldn't be “getting the word” to one of these five guys. Remember these guys play the toughest position on defense and they are already proven. - Jayson Braddock
Jayson appears on Sports Radio 790 AM in Houston, TX, every Thursday morning at 11:19 am CST as the football insider on the Dylan Gwinn show. He's a graduate of the Sports Management World Wide Football GM & Scouting Course and has been mentored by former NFL player / executive John Wooten and Sporting News.com NFL Draft Expert Russ Lande. His work is mostly appreciated by die-hard fans interested in every little detail about their team and not just watered down mainstream talk. - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports7910.com.
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