While the New York Giants were under the time crunch of creating the 53-man roster, they made an acquisition that has mostly flown under the radar.
The deal was a conditional 2018 seventh round draft choice to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for cornerback Ross Cockrell. To make the deal even better, upon joining the Giants, the 26-year-old agreed to take a $797K pay cut. He is also all ready to go in Week 1, despite recently being acquired.
Unfortunately, once Cockrell was added to the roster, it that meant that preseason fan favorite Donte Deayon would not be making the team. (Deayon was quickly signed to the Giants practice squad and should be the first corner on the team if any injuries occur.)
If anyone can recall, this is not the first time that the New York Giants made a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, in 2015, Jerry Reese was able to acquire Brad Wing for a conditional seventh round pick. That selection later turned out to be wide receiver Demarcus Ayers.
Thus far, the career of the former Duke product has had its twists and turns. He was drafted in the fourth round by the Buffalo Bills. After a rather uneventful season with the Bills, he was released less than two years after he was drafted.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were then able to sign Cockrell for the 2015 season. Despite coming in with low expectations, the corner went on to start in seven of the 15 games that he would play in. With an effective 2015 season under his belt, he entered 2016 as the Steelers number two option at cornerback.
During this past season, Cockrell was able to start all 16 games and played a lot for the Steelers. In fact, he was able to be on the field for 1,217 snaps which were the second most for a cornerback last season. Even though he was on the field for a lot of snaps, his play did not suffer.
According to Pro Football Focus, he was the 27th best cornerback in the NFL. The numbers can help to back that up as he recorded 14 passes defensed, albeit no interceptions.
So what made the Pittsburgh Steelers seemingly give up on a player like Ross Cockrell?
The answer is depth. For the first time in years, the Steelers have a wealth of talent at cornerback. Mike Tomlin said earlier in the preseason that Ross Cockrell and ex-New York Giant Coty Sensabaugh would both be competing for one roster spot. Given the trade, it is safe to say that Cockrell lost the battle.
Following this trade, the Giants now also possess great depth at cornerback. With Cockrell, the G-Men now have three cornerbacks that according to PFF were among the top 32 in the league during the 2016 season. They also have Eli Apple who showed improvement week after week in 2016 and is set up for a potential breakout season.
Even though the Giants have a solid starting group of corners, an injury can cause chaos in the defensive backfield. Just watch the NFC Wildcard game, when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie went down, Aaron Rodgers was able to easily pick apart the depleted Giants secondary.
Just to understand how deep the Giants secondary is now, last season there were 25 players that recorded at least 13 passes defensed. Out of those 25 players, four of them are currently on the New York Giants. Those four players are Rodgers-Cromartie, Landon Collins, Janoris Jenkins, and Ross Cockrell. With the added development of Apple and the comeback of Darian Thompson, expect one of the best secondaries in the NFL to reside in East Rutherford.
By making a smart move in adding Ross Cockrell to the team, the Giants now have the depth that they desperately need to make a run for the Super Bowl.