The New York Giants could still add a veteran cornerback to this extremely young secondary through free agency.
Last year, the New York Giants yet again employed a below-average defensive backfield. Their 264.1 average passing yards allowed per game put them as the No. 28 secondary in the league and prompted the organization to make some changes this offseason. Moves included the signing of corner James Bradberry to a three-year deal along with the drafting of Alabama safety Xavier McKinney in the second round.
But that doesn’t change the fact that this Giants secondary is still super young and inexperienced. The oldest cornerback on the roster happens to be the 26-year-old Bradberry, so the Giants could definitely look towards free agency to snag a veteran for the group.
And amid the DeAndre Baker situation, acquiring someone may become a priority ahead of the upcoming season.
Here are three individuals to potentially consider.
Logan Ryan is surely a name to ponder on, but there are both positives and negatives surrounding him. Let’s take a look at the former category.
Connections mean a whole lot in this league, and Ryan certainly possesses one with newly hired Giants head coach Joe Judge. The New England Patriots drafted Ryan in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft when Judge was still a special teams assistant there. Logan then spent his initial four campaigns with the gold standard organization with Judge on the sidelines, building a relationship that could continue in East Rutherford.
Ryan is additionally a physical corner that Judge would love to employ on his defense. Last year, while a member of the Tennessee Titans, Ryan notched a team-leading 113 combined tackles and team-leading four forced fumbles. He also racked up 4.5 sacks, a mark that finished fourth on the squad.
His face-value numbers when it comes to coverage were also impressive; he was second on the team in interceptions (four) and led the team in pass breakups (18).
Now, the negatives.
Although his interception and pass-breakup totals were solid, the aforementioned key phrase is “face value.” Ryan actually struggled when you look deep into his coverage performance, having allowed quarterbacks to complete 66% of throws for 781 yards and five touchdowns when targeting him.
Signing Ryan could also put a dent in the Giants’ cap space. According to OverTheCap, Big Blue currently possesses a little over $16.5 million in cap space, and general manager Dave Gettleman likely wants to retain around $10 million for both in-season emergencies and the unsigned rookies.
Ryan may ask for a significant chunk of cash, considering he’s still in his 20s and can play at a decent level. Back in May, he was reportedly seeking $10 million annually, which would be a tough sell for Big Blue’s front office.
He’s not the most popular free agent nor would become a starter (most likely). But Javien Elliott could indeed be a name to add to the mix when it comes to both the slot corner position as well as on the outside.
As was said before, connections are a significant benefit in the NFL, and Elliott carries one with Bradberry.
Javien spent last season in Carolina, where Bradberry started 15 games in 2019. Elliott, who originally went undrafted in 2016, started a trio of contests alongside the current Giant, thus having experience communicating and performing with the man who’s slated to be New York’s top corner.
Just like Ryan, there would be ups and downs to signing Elliott. He’s not the greatest in coverage, having allowed quarterbacks to complete 28 of 36 throws (77.8%) for 283 total yards when targeting him last year.
Nonetheless, Elliott has much experience on special teams (165 special teams snaps for the Panthers last year) and could use that area to impress the coaching staff. Judge, a former special teams coordinator, will surely have his eyes on that facet of the game and could ultimately have them trickle over to Elliott if he put his talents to good use.
Elliott would also be super cheap, so the front office wouldn’t really need to worry about his acquisition affecting the cap too much. He only cost the Panthers a $720,000 cap hit last year, which would be totally feasible for the Gettleman-led group.
Darqueze Dennard, like the other two options, contains ups and downs. In regards to the positives, he’s likely one of the better cover corners on the market, which would be beneficial for a defensive backfield that finished as bad as the Giants’ unit did last year.
In nine games (five starts) with Cincinnati in 2019, Dennard allowed quarterbacks to complete 17 of 35 throws (48.6%) for just 188 yards and one score when throwing his way. He’s also proven to have the ability to come up and make contact with the ball carrier. Dennard’s 85 total tackles in 2017 tied for first on the Bengals that season.
Although he’d be more expensive than Elliott, he wouldn’t cost nearly as much as Ryan would. Last year, Dennard played for Cincinnati on a one-year deal worth $4.5 million. Coming off a season in which he played just nine games, the former first-round pick would likely carry even less of a value.
One of the major downsides is the injury history though. The 2017 campaign (his most successful — 61 solo tackles, two sacks, two picks, six pass breakups) is the only season in which he’s played all 16 games. He played 14, 10, and 15 games respectively from 2014-16 and then 13 and nine matchups respectively from 2018-19.
The ability for Dennard to succeed is existent, and he’d likely have a decent chance to earn significant playing time. But if you’re not consistently healthy, what good are you? That’s the question the Giants would need to keep in mind if they were to look into picking up Dennard ahead of the 2020 season.