Let’s continue our New York Giants positional reviews by looking at cornerback, a spot that was a strength of the 2016 Giants and will be one of the more interesting positions to watch this offseason.
When the Giants somewhat surprisingly made Eli Apple the 10th overall pick, the plan certainly wan not to have the rookie take over at one outside cornerback slot while Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie moved inside. That, however, is how things worked out and it proved to be a stroke of genius.
Apple had rookie ups and downs, but played well enough to show that he has a future as a quality corner. Rodgers-Cromartie, though, was the real story. He took to the slot role surprisingly well, accepting the assignment and the somewhat limited snaps that came with it, and had his best season in three years with the Giants.
Combined with the fact that Janoris Jenkins, a free-agent signing questioned by many, had a Pro Bowl season and proved to be a massive upgrade over Prince Amukamara, left the Giants with one of the league’s best secondaries. Pro Football Focus ranked the Giants’ secondary No. 2 in the NFL in 2016, and the play of Jenkins, Apple and DRC was one of the primary reasons the Giants were second in the league in scoring defense.
2017 free agents
Offseason decisions to make
The biggest one, without about, is what to do with Rodgers-Cromartie. When it became apparent the Giants were going to play DRC in the slot, it looked like the beginning of a phase-out for the 30-year-old nine-year veteran. He took to the job so well, however, that he might have made it impossible for the Giants to part ways with him.
Rodgers-Cromartie ended up with six interceptions, matching a career-high, and 21 passes defensed. Entering the fourth year of a five-year contract, Rodgers-Cromartie carries an $8.5 million cap hit in 2017, and the Giants could save $4.5 million by cutting him. What seems more likely, considering how well he played and how difficult slot corners are to find, is that the Giants approach DRC about re-structuring.
“He has stepped in there when guys have gotten hurt and played a number of different positions,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said recently when asked about DRC. “He has had one of his better years. He has been great.”
The Giants also need to decide whether to bring back Sensabaugh and/or Wade, and whether or not to seek upgrades in the depth at that spot.
Draft/FA priority level
Medium. Much of this, of course, depends on what happens with DRC. If he returns that strengthens the Giants for 2017, and it buys them at least a year in which spending big-time resources at corner isn’t a necessity. If the Giants and DRC should part ways, obviously getting another quality corner, particularly one who is well-versed in playing the slot, becomes a necessity.
Sensabaugh and Wade did well enough in limited roles, though they might have been exposed in the playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers. Whether or not one or both return, adding depth via the middle to late rounds of the draft or free agency isn’t a bad idea.