The New York Giants had the worst pass defense in the NFL in 2015. That means their cornerback play stunk, right? Well, not necessarily. Let's look at cornerback as we continue our position-by-position reviews, looking back at 2015 and ahead to 2016.
2015 in review
Cornerback was far from the biggest problem on the Giants' defense in 2015. Considering, the paucity of pass rush, the issues at safety and the inability of Giants linebackers to cover anyone the Giants were going to give up a lot of yardage against the pass in 2015 regardless of how good their cornerback play way.
Both Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are good but not great corners. Rodgers-Cromartie occasionally flashes elite ability, but not always. Amukamara has never made the jump from good player to elite, shutdown corner. The real issue at this position was depth. Going back into the last offseason we pointed out that the Giants needed better depth at the position. With Amukamara missing five games due to a pectoral injury, and no true quality slot corner to begin with, that became an issue. Trevin Wade and Jayron Hosley played OK at times, but each was often exposed by opposing quarterbacks. Trumaine McBride became a mostly forgotten man as the season wore on.
Is this a position of need?
The belief here has always been that in the pass-oriented NFL with receivers spread all over the place you must place a premium on the cornerback position. The Giants did that before the 2014 season, but injuries decimated their depth. They basically ignored the position last offseason and paid for it. So, yes, it is a position of need.
How big a need will depend on what decision they make with Amukamara. The 2011 first-round pick can be a free agent, and the Giants have a difficult decision to make. How much is Prince really worth? He is undoubtedly a good player. He competes, he tackles well, he supports the run. He doesn't have the elite physical traits -- the size, speed or quickness -- to make him a top-tier corner, a guy you would want shadowing the opposition's best receiver. Plus, he has a lengthy injury history. He has played in only 19 of 32 games the past two seasons, and only 55 of 80 (68.8 percent) of regular-season games in his career.
Let's use the five-year, $35 million contract Rodgers-Cromartie got from the Giants. That makes him the 14th highest-paid corner in the league based on contract value. Is Amukamara worth that much, or more, to the Giants? He's younger than DRC, but not as talented as a cover guy. If another team offers Amukamara that kind of money do the Giants try to compete? It really isn't an easy call
If the Giants don't sign Amukamara they will probably be in the free-agent market looking for an immediate starter on the outside who might be less costly. Even if they do ultimately keep Amukamara they need to address the slot and add some quality veteran depth. Finding a young player in the draft who might develop into a starter would also be nice.