Reports have surfaced on Thursday afternoon that a veteran cornerback is hitting the market. This player is not one of the big names whom we theorized about a few weeks ago (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or Vontae Davis in particular), but since his is a notable name regardless, it is worth discussing whether or not he might fit with the Green Bay Packers.
The player is Alterraun Verner, and his former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, announced his release on Thursday. Verner was due $6.5 million in 2017, but none of that money was guaranteed and he had no signing bonus when he signed his contract before the 2014 season.
Verner now becomes a street free agent, and will not count against compensatory picks for any team who signs him. That in and of itself might be enough to make a Green Bay Packers fan think that he could be a possible target for Ted Thompson. However, despite that status, there are a number of qualities that make Verner unlikely to end up as a member of the Green Bay Packers.
The first is purely physical: his height. Verner stands 5’10-1/8” tall, or at least he did when he was drafted in 2010. That puts him below the Packers’ typical height threshold of 5’10-5/8”. Strike one.
The second item is his declining play, as seen by the decrease in workload over his three years in Tampa. When he signed in 2014 as an unrestricted free agent, he was coming off a Pro Bowl season in Tennessee which saw him pick off five passes and break up a whopping 23. In his first season with the Bucs, he started all 14 games he played, recording two interceptions and nine pass defenses. However, despite playing every game over the past two years, Verner has started only nine times. In 2016 in particular, he was used more and more as a rotational player thanks to the emergence of rookie corner Vernon Hargreaves and the signing of veteran Brent Grimes. Over the past three years, Vernor’s overall snap percentage dropped from 77.5% to 52.5% to 22.8%. That’s not a good sign.
Item number three is the scheme that Verner is familiar with. In Tampa, Verner operated under defensive coordinators Leslie Frazier and Mike Smith, both of whom ran largely zone coverages. Frazier is a product of the Lovie Smith Tampa-2 system, while Smith has more flexibility but still relies on a lot of zone concepts. The same went for Jerry Gray, the Titans’ DC when Verner had his one Pro Bowl season. Meanwhile, the Packers play more man coverage than Verner is accustomed to, making his fit in Green Bay a question mark.
All told, it’s easy to see a notable cornerback name hit the market and think that he might be a Packers target this year as a street free agent. However, Verner’s lack of size and declining play make it unlikely that he will receive serious consideration at 1265 Lombardi Avenue.