One of the better stories of 2018 for the New York Giants was the emergence of undrafted rookie free agent Grant Haley as a capable slot cornerback. In an effort to improve their secondary, though, could the Giants go after the best slot cornerback on the market — Bryce Callahan of the Chicago Bears?
Height: 5-foot-9 | Weight: 188
2018 stats: 13 games (10 starts) | Interceptions (2) | Passes defensed (6) | Sacks (2) | Tackles (45)
PFF numbers: Overall grade (81.4) | Run defense (57.8) | Tackling (65.1 — 7 missed tackles) | Pass coverage (81.3) | Passer rating against (80.5)
Callahan is a pure slot corner. He played 610 of 689 snaps in the slot in 2018, per Pro Football Focus. In 2017, that numbers was 478 of 513.
Pro Football Focus ranks Callahan as the No. 2 cornerback available on the free agent market.
Once an afterthought, the importance of the slot cornerback has begun to come to light in recent seasons and Callahan was one of the best in 2018. He shut down the slot week in and week out, allowing just 0.69 receiving yards per coverage snap in the slot which was the fewest among the 30 cornerbacks who played at least 200 coverage snaps. Having increased his overall grade from 62.9 in 2016 to 77.7 in 2017 to 81.4 last season, Callahan is on the rise and will likely cash in on that improved play in the coming months.
In a free agent profile of Callahan, PFF added this:
Callahan may have had his season cut short due to injury, but before then, he displayed exceptional ability at covering the slot, which has become a focal point for some of the best offenses in the league. When covering the slot, he allowed just 0.69 yards per coverage snap and a passer rating of 78.9, which rank second and eighth among cornerbacks, respectively. The four-year-veteran demonstrated the ability to effectively rush the passer, as well, generating 13 total pressures (including two sacks), despite never logging more than two pressures in a season prior to this year. The prolific usage of slot receivers combined with Callahan displaying exceptional prowess covering the slot should equate to a big payday for the Rice alumnus.
The Giants’ best cornerback is Janoris Jenkins. His status is currently up in the air as he carries a $14.75 million cap hit and the Giants could save $11.25 million by making him a post-June 1 cut. Jenkins didn’t have a great 2018 season, but he remains the Giants’ most talented coverage player. Cutting him would create another hole for which there is no obvious fix.
Sam Beal, selected in the third round of the 2018 Supplemental Draft, is expected to be healthy after spending his rookie season on IR with a shoulder injury. He should emerge as a starter on the outside.
B.W. Webb had a good season for the Giants and has versatility to play both the slot and the outside. He is a free agent, though, and if the Giants bring him back they might prefer to do so with Webb as a depth player.
Haley had an overall PFF grade of 69.3. His passer rating against was an abominable 142.3.
There is an argument to be made that, despite all of the focus on pass rush, improving in the secondary might be the best way the Giants can help their defense. Could signing Callahan be the best way for the Giants to get better at corner?