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2020 NFL free agency: 5 cheaper cornerback options for New York Giants

Obtaining veteran help at the position has to be a priority

Carolina Panthers v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

It’s a passing league.

That is a common sentiment in today’s NFL and an attitude that Dave Gettleman has been maligned for not always appearing to share. There’s no doubt that Gettleman believes in strong trenches, as should everyone who follows the sport, but the GM has not neglected the cornerback position. The Giants invested a third-round Supplemental selection on Sam Beal, a first-round pick on DeAndre Baker, sixth-round pick on Corey Ballentine, and a fourth-round pick on corner/safety prospect Julian Love.

While pragmatic, the investment failed to yield immediate substantial return in 2019. The Giants ranked 24th in the league, allowing 264 passing yards a game. Now, with the departure of Janoris Jenkins, the Giants are left relying heavily on young players who have to adopt an entirely different system under Patrick Graham. Not exactly a recipe for success for Gettleman, whose seat is hotter than ever.

I believe the Giants will be in contention for former Cowboys’ cornerback Byron Jones, as well as former Panthers’ cornerback James Bradberry. Both very talented, and young, in their own right. Jerome Henderson is the Giants’ defensive backs coach and he held that same position for the Cowboys in Jones’ first season. Jones is my preferred option as of now, but Gettleman has a connection to Bradberry through the draft in Carolina, and his tape is solid, too. However, this article is about the lower cost free agent cornerbacks that can be had on the cheap. Let’s look at some of these players, shall we?

Tramon Williams, Packers

I even asked myself, Nick, why would you put a 37-year-old cornerback on this list? The answer is simple, he’s effective! PFF has Williams as seventh in overall coverage and 21st in overall defense as a cornerback, which is even more impressive when you consider he played 503 of his 792 snaps in the slot, better known as ATTACK HERE when teams are playing the Giants. Grant Haley and Corey Ballentine both struggled there last season, and Williams could help stabilize one of the biggest vulnerabilities with the Giants defense. Williams may be looking for a new home, with Green Bay heavily investing in the corner position the last three seasons, and New York should be in consideration. He’ll probably command something reasonable, like a two-year, $8 million deal with incentives. Brings leadership, championship pedigree, and special teams value as well.

Mackensie Alexander, Vikings

Another effective slot corner. Alexander was a second-round pick in 2016 by the Minnesota Vikings. Alexander took a while to develop, which prompted the Vikings to draft cornerback Mike Hughes in the first round of 2018, rendering Alexander expendable. He has struggled with penalties and only has two career interceptions, but the former Clemson Tiger was able to put two solid years together and set himself up for free agency as a 26-year-old. PFF had Alexander as its 66th corner in overall defense, but he ranked 79th in coverage. Over The Cap has Alexander’s projected contract in free agency to be three years, $4 million average, with $3.5 million guaranteed (total of $12 million). I believe Alexander will find a more lucrative deal than that, but if those numbers prove to be accurate, I would sign him.

Prince Amukamara, Bears

A recent cap casualty, Amukamara still has good football left to be played at age 30. He was making around $9 million a year, and the Bears, who had less than $11 million in cap space, found Amukamara expendable. What’s that old saying? One team’s rubbish is another team’s jewels? This could be that scenario. Amukamara is not a number one cornerback, but he could bring veteran leadership to a young group of corners. Amukamara had 51 tackles and allowed a 62 percent catch rate on 58 targets in 2019. He’s getting older, but he was able to muster 15 games in 2019, which wasn’t always the case throughout his career. According to Pro Football Focus, Amukamara ranked 41st in coverage, among corners, and 52nd in overall defense. I expect him to sign a one- or two-year deal, similar to the “prove it deal” he signed with the Jaguars in 2016, which was $5.5 million. Because the salary cap goes up every year, he may get slightly north of that, which would not be terrible for the Giants.

Aaron Colvin, Washington

It wasn’t long ago when Colvin’s departure from Jacksonville seemed to counteract their successes in the AFC South. In 2018, Colvin signed a four-year, $34 million contract ($18 million guaranteed) with the Houston Texans. That deal lasted up till Week 1 of 2019 when Colvin, a once top 5 slot corner in the NFL, was beaten by Tre’Quan Smith and Taysom Hill for touchdowns against the Saints on Monday Night Football. The next week, the Texans ate the salary and moved on, which is when Washington signed Colvin.

The NFL is fast-moving and things changed rapidly for Colvin, who is still only 28 years old. Colvin was surrounded by an excellent defense in Jacksonville and the contract he received from the Texans was a mistake. Colvin has just 16 passes defensed and no interceptions in a six-year career. Now, relatively free, the Giants could add a once-coveted player who was once good in man coverage and the slot to their roster. It would be inexpensive and if it did not work out then the Giants could just part ways.

If the Giants don’t do a cannonball and add a big splash in free agency, they should add a few of these lower-level contracts to compete with the young players that still have a lot to prove.

Antonio Hamilton, Giants

A familiar face, why not re-sign? If I were to say that after watching 2019’s Dallas game in Week 1, I would have kicked myself square in the midsection. He showed sloppy tackling and gave up 7 catches on 7 targets. Then I watched him throughout the year make plays on special teams, which piqued my interest level. Then, to come full circle on the season, Hamilton played in an important game (for the Eagles, obviously) in Week 17. Sam Beal was out with a shoulder injury and Hamilton was targeted 8 times, a prominent target in the Eagles game plan. The Eagles only converted two receptions on those 8 targets, with Hamilton collecting 4 passes defensed.

Watching the All-22, I came away impressed with Hamilton’s growth from the beginning of the season and thought he would be an easy player to bring back if the new Giants’ coaching staff is interested. I wouldn’t mind a small contract, where Hamilton can compete in training camp.