Nov 8, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams (34) runs the ball against Oakland Raiders cornerback DJ Hayden (25) during the second half at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game, 38-35. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Jets are in dire need of adding better talent at cornerback. Here are the top five players they should target in free agency.
“Whether we kept them or we let them go, we’re always trying to win. We don’t do anything in the mindset [of rebuilding]. You rebuild as far as people and names, but you don’t rebuild in terms of trying to win or not win. We’re trying to win all the time.”
The deepest position group in free agency this season is the secondary, specifically cornerback and the Jets clearly need help in that area of the field. Not only are the cornerbacks good, but they’re young enough to expect them to still be around for a rebuilding period.
It’s going to take some time to build this roster to be viable, but general manager Mike Maccagnan is capable, and it’s the perfect free agency class to do so.
Marcus Williams has starter talent, and the Jets may want to see what he can do in 2017 as one. It would also behoove them to not only add a quality starter but add some depth for nickel and dime defensive situations.
Let’s look at the top five free agents at cornerback for the Jets.
Next: 5. Talented corner with limited playing time
Nov 8, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) is hit by Oakland Raiders cornerback DJ Hayden (25) during the second half at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game, 38-35. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
5. D.J. Hayden
Hayden is talented. When he plays, he is around the football a lot, and his stats prove it out. He has three interceptions, three forced fumbles and 26 passes defended.
The operative phrase is when he plays and that leads to one other key stat, 52.2%. That’s the percentage of snaps he’s played in his career.
In 2013, 2014, and 2016, he played in 52.2% or less of the defensive snaps. In 2015, he played in 16 games for the only time in his four years in the NFL, and in that season he played in 78.2% of the defensive snaps.
So, when it comes to Hayden, the term caveat emptor (buyer beware) comes to mind. The most important ability is availability, and Hayden has had issues with that early on in his career.
He has talent, but playing time has been limited due to injury. If they choose to sign Hayden, their best option for him would be to sign him with NLTBE (not likely to be earned) incentives, this way those don’t count against the cap unless he actually earns them.
Next: 4. Aging corner to move inside
Sep 13, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr (13) runs after a reception against Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr (39) in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
4. Brandon Carr
Carr will be 31 going into the 2017 season, and that’s the same age Darrelle Revis is now. However, he wasn’t the physical cornerback Revis was throughout his career, and that has kept injuries away, so far.
One thing that’s great about Carr is that he has played and started in 16 games every season for his entire career. He also has forced at least a fumble or interception in eight of nine NFL seasons.
In addition to that, in four NFL seasons, he has multiple interceptions. Carr also has recorded at least 50 tackles in eight seasons.
As a result of his age, maybe it’s time to move him inside and add depth to the position rather than being matched up against the opponent’s top receiver. The Jets could use depth at that position and add a dime/nickel corner.
According to Spotrac, his market value is $5.8M. That’s a perfect number for the Jets to work with.
Next: 3. A veteran with a nose for the ball
Butler is 30 years old, which like Carr, puts him lower on this list than otherwise, if he were younger, but he has been productive in his career. He’s a sure tackler, having never recorded fewer than 20 solo tackles in his career.
He has also played in 10+ games in every season of his eight-year NFL career, and that’s a plus. Availability is key when evaluating players.
Butler has recorded at least three interceptions in three of his five seasons in Indianapolis. The Jets could use a player like that if they want to get back to aggressively attacking the quarterback.
He also has a total of 15 interceptions in his career with 62 passes defended. Having him and Marcus Williams could be a good cornerback tandem as the Jets try to build toward the future.
Next: 2. A little Captain on this team
Nov 29, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (24) intercepts a pass in front of Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Nick Williams (15) in the second quarter of their game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
When you compare him to Hayden, Munnerlyn does have similar snap count percentage. However, the difference between Hayden and Munnerlyn differ in games played.
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Despite his low usage by the Vikings in 2015-16, Munnerlyn has been productive. He had 110 tackles, three fumbles, two interceptions, and a sack.
In fact, Munnerlyn has had his nose around the football his entire career. He has 11 interceptions, 50 passes defended, seven forced fumbles and six sacks.
He has shown to be an excellent all-around corner, which makes him a great target. The Jets also need a guy like that, because they want to be aggressive on defense and may want to mix in some corner blitzes.
Next: 1. A perfect fit
Aug 20, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore (24) catches a pass before the game against the New York Giants at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
The tandem could be a force to be reckoned with if the defensive backs could just cover well and give them time to get home. Enter Stephon Gilmore.
Gilmore has had 11 interceptions in the last three seasons, and that’s with a suspect pass rush in Buffalo. Imagine what he could do in New York with that scheme.
He also has 36 passes defended in the last three season, and all of that is while playing in at least ¾ of Buffalo’s defensive snaps. At age 25, barring injury, he shouldn’t be slowing down anytime soon.