2011 Free Agents: CB

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  You could have the same argument about whether a defense should focus more on building a great secondary or a great defensive line.  Some people argue that to have an elite pass defense you need to have amazing CBs to buy the defensive line time to get to the quarterback, while others argue that if you have great pass-rush specialists on your d-line you can get by with just average corners.  I say both arguments are true.

The Seahawks’ defense overachieved last year in large part because of their defensive line.  No one expected Red Bryant to have the impact he did, and Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock were both able to come in as free agent pickups and make huge contributions.  Their production helped make up for our cornerbacks not playing up to the same level.

Josh Wilson was traded last year because Pete Carroll and his staff prefer larger CBs, which is a big change in philosophy from Tim Ruskell’s, who thought that a team could get by with smaller players as long as they were boy scouts.  Carroll wants corners who feel comfortable playing press coverage at the line of scrimmage, and we can expect that any future CBs he and Schneider sign will be big enough to jam the snot out of any wideout.  Kelly Jennings’ size (under 5’10”) also likely means that he will not be re-signed.

This is a change I’m in favor of given the receivers in our division.  The Seahawks have to deal with Larry Fitzgerald twice a year, for one.  If Michael Crabtree and his 6’1″, 215 lbs frame blossoms into a major threat he could toss a guy like Jennings around like a rag doll.  There are also rumors that the Rams might be looking to add offensive playmakers like AJ Green or Julio Jones in this year’s draft, both of whom ar 6’4″ with decent bulk.  Neither Wilson or Jennings are able to cover the jump ball well enough against guys who are 6 inches taller than them. 

Marcus Trufant is also starting to show his age.  It might be wise for Seattle to assume Tru is now a secondary corner rather than the primary CB they’re paying him to be.  If he continues to decline, then we need to seriously consider finding a primary cornerback this offseason.

We also have quite a few younger guys whom Kris Richards, our new defensive backs coach, hopes to develop into starting-quality players.  Let’s start with Walter Thurmond.  I’m still not sold on him being fully recovered from his knee injury, but he did show some flashes last year of being a very good corner.  Next up is Brandon Browner, who is an interesting longshot that Carroll is hoping develops.  At 6’3″, 220lbs, he’s one of the biggest corners I’ve ever heard of.  You can find a great writeup on Browner here.  The team re-signed Josh Pinkard (6’1″, 215 lbs) to a new deal prior to the lockout, and you can read more about him here.  Finally, we also have Marcus Brown, and there are some who say that the 6’0″ CB might be the fastest player on the roster.

Between Browner, Pinkard, and Brown, we might be able to find one good corner, maybe two.  Personally though, I’m not happy with that choice.  We need to invest more in the corner position, and I wouldn’t mind seeing the Hawks select a corner with their first pick tonight, especially if Jimmy Smith is still on the board.  I’m a huge Colorado Buffs fan, and I’ve been impressed with his play over the last few years.  Still, all of the younger CBs on the roster have a chance to turn into something special, and the amazing thing about them is how little Carroll and Schneider have spent in qcquiring them.  Hopefully they aren’t done turning over every stone in their pursuit of talent upgrades.

The Seahawks also look very good in terms of cap space.  They took advantage of the uncapped year in 2010 by dumping players with unrealistic contracts like TJ Houshmandzadeh.  That approach hurt in the short term, but it sets the team up for a bright future.  Every possibility is wide open for them: will they continue to build the CB position through the draft, or will they add a bunch of free agents and let them fight it out?  Only time will tell.  For now, here’s some free agent CBs who are set to test the free agent market sometime this summer.

Nnamdi Asomugha (OAK)

29 years old, 6’2″, 210 lbs

Let me start off with a statistic: of the passes thrown by opposing QBs toward Asomugha’s receiver in the past three seasons, only 3.7% have been completed.  It should also say something about the quality of a corner’s talent when he can have an all-pro season and still not achieve the minimum performance stats laid out in his contract, thereby voiding the final contract year. [It might also say something about the quality of the lawyers drawing up Oakland’s contracts. -Ed.]  Because of a stipulation in his contract, the Raiders can’t use a franchise tag on him, either.  A lot of media pundits are saying that Asomugha is the big prize of free agency this year, and he’s definitely one of the best talents ever to hit the open market.

And unless he’s willing to give a discount to a postseason contender, he’s also going to command one of the biggest contracts in the history of free agency.  I have no delusions of Asomugha giving a discount like that to the Seahawks, however.  I do think that his history with Tom Cable will mean that he’d at least listen to Seattle’s negotiators, but our team is still two to three years away from serious contention.  I love Asomugha’s talent, but the contract figures it would take to see him suit up in lime green and Seahawk blue would hinder Seattle’s ability to pursue other free agents for the next couple of years.  I would guess that his asking price will be in excess of $100 million, and that money would be better spent filling all the other holes on the Hawks’ roster.

Antonio Cromartie (NYJ)

26 years old, 6’2″, 211 lbs

Comartie is a good talent.  He has some issues (and a lot of kids), but he is one of the bigger names hitting the market this offseason.  He wasn’t able to be the playmaker the Jets hoped for when they signed, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t talented.  He gets victimized by smaller, quicker wideouts and excels when asked to cover bigger wideouts downfield.

Despite the team’s disappointment in him, I would be surprised if the Jets don’t try to re-sign Cromartie.  Kyle Wilson hasn’t lived up to his draft hype, and New York needs a CB with decent talent to paly opposite of Darrelle Revis to allow them to play the sort of defense they want to play.

Ike Taylor (PIT)

30 years old, 6’2″, 195 lbs

Ike Taylor is good in both run support and coverage.  Some people think he’s lost a step, but he’s been one of the most consistent corners in the league for the last few years.  His coverage skills have allowed Dick LeBeau to be very creative with his Blitz-burg defense.  Unfortunately for Taylor, his age means that his production is bound to begin dropping off, which in turn means that his contract expectations are going to be contrary to what his skills actually merit.  I expect him to dabble in free agency before ultimately re-signing with the Steelers.

Carlos Rogers (WAS)

29 years old, 6’1″, 190 lbs

Rogers has been Mr. Consistency for a while now.  He’s a solid cover corner and one of the leaders of the Redskins’ secondary.  The only major drawback I’ve read is that Rogers apparently can’t catch a football to save his life, so much so that some Redskins fans are going to be upset if the team re-signs him.  If he was able to catch a few more passes instead of knocking them away, he’d get a lot more credit and a lot more love from Washington’s fans.

Jonathan Joseph (CIN)

26 years old, 5’11”, 193 lbs

I really believe that the cutoff height for the Seahawks at CB is going to be 6’0″, which would exclude Joseph.  He’s young and talented, but given his injury history — he’s missed 12 games over the last 3 seasons — I’m against signing him.

Ronde Barber (TB)

36 years old, 5’9″, 184 lbs

Besides the fact that he’s ancient in football years, he’s also too short to be considered by the Hawks.  If they wanted a corner Barber’s size, they would have held on to Josh Wilson.

Brent Grimes (ATL)

27 years old, 5’10”, 181 lbs

Another shorter guy who isn’t going to be considered

Other Notable Free Agents:

Richard Marshall (CAR)

Brian Williams (ATL)

Chris Carr (BAL)

Fabian Washington (BAL)

Josh Wilson (BAL)

Drayton Florence (BUF)

Richard Marshall (CAR)

Corey Graham (CHI)

Eric Wright (CLE)

CC Brown (DET)

Brandon McDonald (DET)

Chris Houston (DET)

Josh Bell (GB)

Jason Allen (HOU)

Travis Daniels (KC)

Brandon Carr (KC)

Al Harris (MIA)

Lito Sheppard (MIN)

Frank Walker (MIN)

Kyle Arrington (NE)

Usama Young (NO)

Drew Coleman (NYJ)

Stanford Routt (OAK)

William Gay (PIT)

Paul Oliver (SD)

Dashon Goldson (SF)

Kelly Jennings (SEA)

Justin King (STL)

Roderick Hood (TEN)

Phillip Buchanon (WAS)

(Once again, thanks goes to Football’s Future for the free agent list.)