The Cowboys first big chance to alter their roster this offseason will come with free agency, Right now, that’s scheduled to start on March 17th barring any interruptions from COVID. We previously looked at a batch of free agents at the safety position courtesy of ESPN’s rankings of the Top 50 free agents.
Today, we’ll look at their partners in the secondary, the corners. The Cowboys have Trevon Diggs and Anthony Brown under contract, but Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and C.J. Goodwin are free agents. Unless the Cowboys bring back Awuzie or Lewis, they will likely need a vet or two to fill out the secondary. Depending on how things play out, they could go for some mid-to-bottom tier guys, or if they get lucky they might attract one of the top guys.
Things are going to be different this year in free agency due to COVID knocking the salary cap down into a predicted range of $175-180 million. We discussed the ramifications of that previously in the safeties article, but basically it boils down to this.
All of that is a long way of saying that just because a free agent is ranked highly, and in a normal year might be out of the Cowboys range, this year could be different. Players might take cheaper deals to hit free agency again next year, or they might have to settle for lesser contracts once the initial burst of money is gone.
At that amount, things could get very ugly for plenty of teams and players. As the source characterized it, the commencement of the 2021 league year on March 17 will destroy the middle class of veteran free agents. Plenty of players will be cut or not re-signed.
By way of example, a player like Ndamukong Suh, who was paid $7 million in 2020, will likely get something closer to $3 million in 2021. Many teams will be able to offer veterans only $1 million per year.
Given that the Cowboys are ranked 12th in amount of cap room right now, who knows how this will all shake out. Yes, Dak Prescott is going to take a huge bite, but they may ne able to structure that deal to give them some room this year.
Here is a look at some of the top corner free agents expected to hit the market this offseason.
26. Desmond King II, CB
2020 team: Tennessee Titans | Age entering 2021 season: 26
King started eight combined games last season for the Chargers and Titans, where he was traded at midseason. At times in his career, he has been an exceptional slot cornerback. The midseason trade suggests that acclaim was not universally held.
The Titans are in negative territory right now with respect to the salary cap. Any team in that area will have to do some house cleaning to pick up free agents. It’s always a possibility they have to let some of their own walk, but King is probably one they desperately want to keep.
The Cowboys will have to decide where they want to play Anthony Brown next year. If he returns to the slot then they have need for an outside corner. If Jourdan Lewis is brought back, Brown has the versatility to play outside but it probably isn’t his best option.
28. Shaquill Griffin, CB
2020 team: Seattle Seahawks | Age entering 2021 season: 26
Griffin intercepted a career-high three passes in 2020, his fourth season as a starter in Seattle. Regardless of his interception numbers, though, he has consistently been around the ball. ESPN Stats & Information has credited him with 39 pass breakups — passes that he either defended, tipped or batted down. That tied him for the 14th most in the NFL over the past four seasons.
Griffin comes from the Seattle school of defense, so there is an intriguing aspect immediately. He would likely fit easily into Dan Quinn’s scheme. The Seahawks are not in bad shape with regards to the salary cap, so they may prioritize keeping Griffin.
31. Patrick Peterson, CB
2020 team: Arizona Cardinals | Age entering 2021 season: 31
You’ll find little disagreement that Peterson has played better in his career than he did in 2020. Pro Football Focus calculated that quarterbacks had a 96.2 passer rating when throwing in his direction. But there are rarely even competent cornerbacks available on the free-agent market. If the Cardinals or Peterson decide to move on, there would be interest by default.
The Cardinals are doing okay cap-wise, but will have to make the decision if it is time to move on from their longtime veteran. Peterson skills seem to be in decline, but he probably is still a very serviceable corner.
40. William Jackson III, CB
2020 team: Cincinnati Bengals | Age entering 2021 season: 28
Jackson has had some solid moments for the Bengals over the past four years after missing his rookie season due to injury, but 2020 was not his best. The Bengals seemed to telegraph their long-term plans for him by signing a pair of veteran free agents at his position — Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander — last offseason.
The Bengals certainly have the cash to bring him back. He’s been a solid corner during his time and has covered the number one for the opposition many times. His PFF numbers are pretty good, so it would seem unlikely, but possible, the Bengals let him walk.
43. Richard Sherman, CB
2020 team: San Francisco 49ers | Age entering 2021 season: 33
Sherman is probably in the year-to-year phase of his career, given his age and his 11-game stint on injured reserve last season because of a calf injury. Some teams will likely write him off, but because there is no reason to think his injury will loom into 2021, Sherman merits a spot on this list given his still-present coverage skills.
Here is the name that constantly pops up. Dan Quinn and Sherman know each other well, and Sherman could provide a bridge and some veteran leadership for the Cowboys secondary, especially if they pick u a corner high in the draft. The 49ers are in decent cap shape, but may be ready to move on from vet.