The New York Giants got the kind of news teams just don’t want to receive in the offseason when it emerged Thursday night that an arrest warrant was issued for DeAndre Baker, who the Giants selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Baker is innocent until proven guilty but the details of the case are concerning and, if convicted, Baker faces at least 10 years in prison. The situation has yet to play out, but the Giants could be in need of another cornerback to start on the outside.
The team signed free agent James Bradberry at the start of this year’s free agency, but neither Sam Beal nor Corey Ballentine — the Giants’ other “outside” corners — have impressed. Beal has suffered from multiple injuries since being selected by the Giants in the 2018 supplemental draft and Ballentine is still something of an unknown as a small-school prospect.
With Baker’s future now uncertain it makes sense for the Giants to look at the cornerback options still available on the free agent market.
Ryan is the highest-regarded free agent cornerback available and has obvious connections to the Giants coaching staff. Both Joe Judge and Patrick Graham are familiar with Ryan, who was drafted by the New England Patriots in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Ryan has been a steady, dependable coverage player throughout his career and is still in his prime at 29 years old. Ryan has primarily been a slot corner over the course of his career, playing the most snaps and playing his best football inside.
Ryan has been been expected to sign with the New York Jets, but a deal has yet to be reached as of this writing. He is, reportedly, willing to play on a short-term deal, but has to this point been unwilling to sign for less than $10 million.
Ryan’s price tag could be too hefty.
Dennard has also primarily been a slot corner in the NFL. Over the course of his six-year career, nearly 70 percent (68.6) of his snaps have come as a slot defender. However, like Ryan, Dennard has experience on the outside and the Giants might not be in the position to be picky. Dennard has dealt with injuries over the last two seasons, playing 13 games in 2018 and 9 games in 2019. However, he has also been reliable when on the field, with 6 passes defensed in each of 2017 and 2018, and 5 passes defensed in 2019. Dennard had a three-year, $13 million deal in place with the Jacksonville Jaguars at the start of free agency, but it has since fallen through.
In all honesty, I think this is the most likely route the Giants take.
While Beal and Ballentine are unproven, they’re probably the Giants’ most likely options. The free agency cupboard is pretty bare, as we have seen. The only other potential starting corner the Giants could sign would be Eli Apple, who would be a young, inexpensive, and athletic scheme fit. But considering the circumstances under which Dave Gettleman traded him just a year and a half ago, neither party is likely interested in a reunion.
A potential silver lining for this whole mess would be for the Giants to finally get something for the 2019 third-round pick invested in Beal, or for Ballentine to emerge as a late-round contributor. Letting Beal and Ballentine compete for the starting job might not be ideal, but considering how Baker played in 2019, they might not be significantly worse options, either.