new york giants free agency
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The New York Giants need a reliable defensive back to perform alongside 2020 Pro Bowl corner James Bradberry.

Ryan Honey

By seeing how James Bradberry conducts himself on the gridiron, you’d think the New York Giants have the cornerback position set for the future. However, that’s not entirely the case. Bradberry was sensational this past season but the Giants were still tied for just 16th in the league with 237.9 passing yards allowed per game, so it’s clear a significant issue is present on the other side of the defensive backfield.

Isaac Yiadom improved throughout the campaign but wasn’t completely successful and doesn’t seem to be the long-term answer at that outside corner position. He wasn’t even supposed to be the main guy performing in that spot either — that was DeAndre Baker prior to his armed robbery charges and eventual release.

Yiadom has one year remaining on his current deal but the 2021 portion of the contract carries no dead cap. Thus, the Giants could look to replace him and ultimately upgrade that spot.

Drafting someone in the first round (potentially Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II or Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley) could be an option, but as Giants fans saw with Baker, a starting rookie corner is prone to on-field issues.

We therefore look to free agency, where a number of corners are set to be available.

1. Ronald Darby

Ronald Darby is still young (entering his age-27 season) and has spent time with multiple teams within the NFC East (three years with the Eagles and one with Washington), thus carrying experience dealing with the strengths and weaknesses of their passing-game weapons. This would obviously be a benefit to Big Blue if he were to come to East Rutherford.

Darby can additionally still produce. He notched 16 pass breakups with 55 combined tackles (43 solo, 9.8% missed tackle rate) through 16 games in 2020. He also allowed just a 54.1% completion rate and 81.0 quarterback rating on 98 targets en route to recording a solid Pro Football Focus grade of 76.0.

Given his success in the Nation’s Capital, there’s a chance Darby could ask for a decent chunk of change, but it likely wouldn’t be the amount that would make a significant dent in the Giants’ available cap space. This past season, Darby played for the Football Team on a one-year deal worth only $3 million.

2. Ross Cockrell

Yes, let’s try Ross Cockrell again.

Cockrell started nine games for the Giants during the abysmal three-win 2017 campaign and nearly returned to the team for this past season. Reports stated the Giants were on the path to signing Cockrell, but a potential contract agreement fell through before the pen hit the paper. Cockrell then ended up in Tampa Bay and is still with the Buccaneers ahead of their Divisional Round matchup with the Saints on Sunday.

But with all that said, it’s clear the Giants front office and general manager Dave Gettleman like what they see out of Cockrell considering they pursued him last year.

And who could blame them?

While with the Panthers in 2019, Cockrell recorded 62 combined tackles (48 solo) with eight pass breakups and a pair of picks in 14 games (11 starts). The pass coverage numbers were additionally impressive that season — Cockrell allowed a 55.2% completion rate for 450 yards and a 68.6 combined quarterback rating on 67 targets (6.7 yards allowed per target).

Not to mention, Cockrell has experience playing alongside Bradberry, having done so during his lone season in Carolina. That reunited chemistry could prove beneficial for Patrick Graham’s secondary in East Rutherford.

3. Xavier Rhodes

The veteran cornerback is turning 31 in a few months, so he’s not completely up there in age and can still produce on the field (he’s made three Pro Bowls with the most recent nod coming during the 2019 season).

In his inaugural campaign with the Colts in 2020, Rhodes started all 16 games and allowed a 52.4% completion rate for 563 yards and an 84.6 combined quarterback rating on 82 targets (6.9 yards allowed per target). An issue within his statistics, however, is his 13.1 yards-allowed-per-completion rate, meaning he’s prone to giving up plays of significant yardage through the air. Rhodes let opposing quarterbacks complete 43 total passes when targeting him in 2020.

He would certainly be a better option than Yiadom or Ryan Lewis (who has one year left on his deal after playing in just five games for New York this past season). Not to mention, considering his experience (eight seasons), he could also be a mentor to some of the younger guys such as Yiadom/Lewis along with Darnay Holmes and Julian Love.

The Giants just need to avoid breaking the bank for him, given his ever-increasing age. Rhodes played on just a one-year, $3 million contract with Indianapolis, so coming to terms on a reasonable deal (while keeping the altered cap in mind) might be a possibility.

4. Vernon Hargreaves

Vernon Hargreaves possesses the talent to take that next step in this league but has yet to do so. A change of scenery as well as the opportunity to play alongside guys like James Bradberry and Logan Ryan could provide him with the tools and guidance necessary to find further on-field success.

The former first-round pick started all 16 games for Houston in 2020 and put up productive numbers from a physical standpoint — he combined for 72 tackles (61 solo). Nonetheless, the coverage-based statistics weren’t at the same level of intrigue. Hargreaves allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 68.2% of throws for 907 yards and a 109.1 combined rating when targeting him, an act that occurred 107 times (8.5 yards allowed per target).

One attractive aspect of Hargreaves’ style of play though is his on-field versatility, something that would definitely interest head coach Joe Judge and coordinator Patrick Graham given the situational schemes the defense utilizes. Hargreaves has experience playing in the slot as well as covering opposing split ends.

NYY

NYM

NYG

NYJ

NYK

BKN

NYR

NYI

NJD

SJU