As the new League Year began in March, one of the first orders of business was to cut starting cornerback Antonio Cromartie. The move would save the Jets around $8 million in cap space. Cromartie was a good Jet, playing at a high level from 2010-12, before having one of the worst seasons of any cornerback in the league. Both injury and the natural decline that age brings played a part in Cromartie’s steep drop off. Cromartie had a nagging hip injury that he played through the entire season. According to Pro Football Focus, Cromartie let up 937 yards and seven touchdowns with quarterbacks having a quarterback rating of 100.7 throwing against him. He was ranked 103rd out of 110th amongst cornerbacks. The sight test backs up that information. That information was included in an SBNation.com article by Jeff Gray that you can read here.
So how do you replace the league’s 7th worst corner in 2013? I am not going to rehash the early part of free agency. Suffice to say there is still a hole to fill at cornerback for the Jets. Is that person who is going to fill the starting cornerback role on the roster now, on another NFL roster or a pick from the draft? That is the question we will tackle today.
The two candidates to fill the position in-house are Dimitri Patterson and Darrin Walls. Patterson has bounced around the league and has played well when he has not been injured. In 2010 with the Eagles, Patterson 50 tackles, 11 pass breakups, four interceptions including one returned for a touchdown. He had 12 more pass breakups the next year in Cleveland. Last year, while in Miami, Patterson had a terrific start to the season with four interceptions in six games before a groin injury grounded him and despite his efforts to come back, Patterson had surgery after the season. Patterson’s durability is what hurts his candidacy.
Darrin Walls has been likened to a relief pitcher by Rex Ryan on multiple occasions. Walls came in to play for Milliner when Milliner was ineffective. Walls played very well at times, making him a player that Jets fans wanted to see more often. He played better than 2013 Cromartie last year but is Walls starting material? I think that Rex Ryan really does just see Walls as a talented backup who can come in and start in an emergency but not someone he would rely on week to week. Maybe that changes this year if Walls vastly outplays Patterson and the draft pick in training camp and the preseason.
If the board doesn’t fall right or the Jets don’t find a cornerback prospect that can start immediately in the draft, they will have to make a trade during the 2nd or 3rd day of the draft or wait until some more veteran cuts come in to find a potential starter. One name to watch is Johnathan Joseph of the Texans. With a cap number of over $11 million it has been written that Joseph is available via trade for a mid-round draft pick or might be cut altogether if he doesn’t agree to a slash in pay. The Texans are in a much better cap situation now than when that was written so I don’t think a cut is on the table but with Joseph turning 30 and another year on the contract after this at a cap number of over $12 million, a trade is not out of the question. Under new coach Bill O’Brien they are rebuilding from scratch and they want a clean slate. Joseph is inconsistent, he has stretches where he is a true shutdown corner then he gets injured or has concentration lapses and gets beaten. All in all Joseph is still one of the better corners in the league and would be a good two year stopgap until a developmental draft pick becomes ready. There also might be other trade scenarios that haven’t become apparent yet that Idzik could act on in the coming weeks and months.