clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Packers Free Agency: Best available cornerbacks to bolster Green Bay’s secondary

With high-profile targets signing elsewhere, it’s time to re-set the Packers’ board at corner.

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Free Agency 2018 is in full swing and so is the market for top cornerbacks.

Entering the signing period, Trumaine Johnson and Malcolm Butler figured to be the most highly-sought corners. That proved true as both players raked in top-dollar contracts that were well outside of the Green Bay Packers’ comfort level.

Meanwhile, other options for the Packers have slowly trickled off the board. Richard Sherman signed on with San Francisco, while middle-tiered players such as Patrick Robinson, T.J. Carrie, Aaron Colvin, and Bashaud Breeland also went in separate directions. Chicago’s Kyle Fuller looked like a darkhorse candidate for Green Bay until the Bears placed the transition tag on him, allowing the team to match any offers Fuller would get on the open market.

With the official signing period still just two days in, here are five of the top available cornerbacks left for the Packers to consider (and note that this list does not address safety/slot corner Tyrann Mathieu, who became available on Wednesday).

Rashaan Melvin

The former Indianapolis Colt has reportedly garnered interest from the Packers and presents a large boundary corner at six-foot-two. APC detailed that interest a bit more yesterday.

The good news on Melvin is that he’s started 19 games over the past two seasons. He really emerged in the early part of the 2017 season and ranked as a “high-quality corner” according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) after limiting opposing passers to just a 60.3 rating. Melvin recorded three interceptions, 13 pass deflections, and 36 tackles last season before ending the season on Injured Reserve after Week 12.

The bad news is that the 28-year old Melvin has already been with five different teams as he gets set to enter his fifth season in the NFL. And the injury history is downright frightening.

There is a bit of buyer beware with Melvin, but a one-year incentive-laden contract could be just what the doctor ordered for the Packers, who could line up another long corner on the outside next to Kevin King.

E.J. Gaines

Like Melvin, Gaines would be a bigger free agent priority if it weren’t for an injury-riddled career. Gaines has missed five games last season and 26 games over the past three seasons.

Gaines jumped onto the NFL scene early as a rookie, starting 15 games for the St. Louis Rams in which he intercepted two passes and deflected 15 others. But he then missed all of the next season after suffering a foot injury. After starting 10 games for the Rams in 2016, Gaines was traded to Buffalo in the deal that netted Sammy Watkins. Gaines had a solid 2017 season after Buffalo also traded away Ronald Darby, starting all 11 games he played in despite a plethora of week-to-week injuries.

Gaines graded out as a “high-quality” cornerback according to PFF last season as well, but is on the borderline of the Packers’ height threshold at 5-foot-10. While injuries are a concern, Gaines has considerable NFL starting experience for a 26-year old if Green Bay can get him for the right deal. Houston appeared to be in the mix for Gaines before re-signing Johnathan Joseph earlier today.

Ross Cockrell

Cockrell’s next destination will pit the six-foot corner in his fourth home in as many years after previous stops in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and New York.

A fourth-round pick in 2014, Cockrell has started 32 games over the past three seasons, including a notable 2016 season in which he started all 16 games for the Steelers with 14 pass deflections. After Pittsburgh traded for Joe Haden, Cockrell was shipped to the Giants, where he went on to start nine games and intercept three passes with another double-digit swat total.

Cockrell graded out as a high-end “above average” corner by PFF last season and probably could be had for a much more reasonable deal than others. At just 27 years of age, there could still be quite a bit of untapped potential for Cockrell, whose game intelligence outweighs athletic shortcomings.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Cockrell’s teammate on the Giants, DRC is not the player he once was at 32-years old. Still, he could provide a solid depth and spot starter option for the Packers while a younger player is developed.

The 10-year NFL veteran has been a durable player, appearing in at least 15 games the past six seasons. He intercepted six passes just two years ago before grading out as an “average” corner in a rocky 2017 season on and off the field.

DRC visited Washington a couple of days ago and cancelled his trip to New Orleans soon after. A deal with the Redskins could be imminent, but has not yet been reported. He may not be the most eye-popping candidate left on the board, but DRC and former Packer Tramon Williams are probably the most NFL-tested.

Delvin Breaux

Injuries have been a common thread in this post and those concerns carry over to Breaux, a player who unexpectedly rose to the NFL scene after stops in the Gridiron Developmental, Arena, and Canadian Football Leagues.

After a first season with the New Orleans Saints in 2015 in which he intercepted three passes, tallied 37 tackles, and recovered a fumble in 15 starts, Breaux has rarely seen the field. The 28-year old broke his fibula early in the 2016 season before suffering a shoulder injury at the end of it, limited him to just six games. Then in 2017, Breaux fractured his fibula again and was out of commission for the entire season.

The Denver Broncos were set to host Breaux today and it’s likely a one-year, prove-it deal is in the cards for what was once a promising 6’1 corner.