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2011 NFL Free Agent Defensive Backs

By: Roshan Bhagat

Top Cornerbacks:

Nnamdi Asomugha (OAK) – As unfortunate as it may be for Asomugha after getting stuck in Oakland for many years, it seems like Asomugha’s top preferences don’t have the money or the need to sign him. While he has been linked to the Packers and Jets out of interest, it seems highly unlikely that either will end up landing him. The Ravens would be a nice fit, but they’re cap-strapped. The league’s top cornerback will be the top prize in free agency, but where he winds up is anyone’s guess. Don’t completely rule out a return to Oakland either if they can maneuver enough cap space.

Johnathan Joseph (CIN) – The Bengals’ corners awakened in 2009 to help lead a good pass defense, but 2010 turned out to be a different story. Both Joseph and Hall regressed and the results in the Bengals secondary showed. Joseph is physical and aggressive and good in any scheme. If the two parties can’t reach a nice long-term deal, there will be plenty who lose out on the Scrabble sweepstakes look in Joseph’s direction.

Brent Grimes (ATL) – Restricted – Grimes had a fantastic season for an improved Falcons defense. As an undrafted player, he’s worked his way and improved each season to become one of the league’s better corners now. The Falcons may take the same path the Packers took with a similar story in Tramon Williams in allowing him to play on his restricted offer and rewarding him midseason if he builds upon his breakout year.

Ike Taylor (PIT) – Ike Taylor has been the lone, consistent cornerback for the Steelers over the past 5+ years. His ideal size, physicality, and skills in run support would make him a great pick-up for a number of teams looking to implement those concepts near the line of scrimmage. Though the Steelers could ill-afford to lose their top corner, there will be a number of teams showing him love in the coming weeks. How much will Taylor factor another opportunity for a ring into his decision if an offer exceeds Pittsburgh’s?

Carlos Rogers (WAS) – Rogers has been a solid press-man cover corner for years now and consequently should be in demand this offseason. Though his hands are downright bad, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves in limiting opposing receivers—a corner’s primary job. The Skins have come to peace with the idea of letting Rogers walk, which means any team that isn’t rich enough for the Scrabble sweepstakes will have a decent target of their own.

Antonio Cromartie (NYJ) – Cromartie is one of several big names hitting the market this year for the Jets. He hasn’t panned out as the elite playmaker many media outlets expected he would opposite Darrelle Revis, but he has given the Jets some flexibility at cornerback. Though he’s expressed admiration in Rex Ryan and enjoys playing for the Jets, he has also said he’ll wait for Nnamdi to sign and set the market, indicating that he’s out for money this year.

Chris Carr (BAL) – After having the best season of his career—an unnoticed and underrated one at that—Chris Carr is only willing to return to the Ravens if he’s promised a starting role. In other words, he’ll have no problem testing the market. With all of the corner-deprived teams around the league, it may not be the worst gamble to beat the market on Chris Carr because if he builds upon his 2010 season, that’s one fine starting cornerback.

Brandon Carr (KC) – Restricted – After tagging Brandon Carr with a first-round tender, it seems unlikely that another organization will make a play for him this offseason. The Chiefs have smartly decided not to take any risks in keeping intact a young secondary that should be among the league’s best over the next decade. Of course this tender is just the first step towards that, but depending on how Carr progresses, they can then make the decision to extend him if they choose.

Other Notable Free Agents:

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)
William Gay (PIT)
Paul Oliver (SD)
Dashon Goldson (SF)
Kelly Jennings (SEA)
Roy Lewis (SEA)
Justin King (STL)
Roderick Hood (TEN)
Phillip Buchanon (WAS)

Safeties:

Quintin Mikell (PHI) – It looks like the Eagles will be set at safety if they can re-sign Quintin Mikell at strong safety next to rookie Nate Allen at free safety. Mikell hasn’t been as impressive this season as last, but is still one of the league’s better starting strong safeties. The Eagles secondary has struggled this year and will look to bring back one of their most consistent pieces in the back end.

Roman Harper (NO) – The Saints feel they have something going in the secondary and their top 10 defense reflects just that. The entire defense was snubbed from the Pro Bowl, but the tandem of Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper at safety is about as good as it gets. Jenkins, a converted corner, has developed into a fine coverage safety, while Roman Harper is a great hitter and tough in run support. Aside from reinvesting in their offensive line, Harper will be one of the team’s highest priorities this season.

Eric Weddle (SD) – Though Weddle hasn’t made too many impact plays this season, he’s been a great emerging player for them in the secondary. He’s a well-rounded player—which stems back from his days at Utah—who can play both the run and pass effectively. The Chargers have several expiring contracts, primarily on offense, but re-signing Weddle defensively seems like a solid logical bet.

Dawan Landry (BAL) – Dawan Landry is having a bounce back season after a pair of disappointing ones in coverage. The Ravens had high expectations following a superb rookie season, but had been beaten over the top too often the next two years. Though he hasn’t made as many impact plays as his rookie year, or even last season, Landry has been far more consistent and is building off of his career high in tackles.

Tanard Jackson (TB) – Jackson is an impressive young safety on the football field and figured to be a difference maker for the Buccaneers early this season. However, after the 2nd game, he was suspended indefinitely for his 3rd violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. The Buccaneers are standing behind him, but it comes as a big disappointment. He won’t be eligible to be reinstated until September 22, 2011, making him a big gamble for whoever looks to retain his services.

Bernard Pollard (HOU) – The Texans had reason to be ecstatic over their free agent signing of 2009, who immensely improved the team’s run defense. This year has brought a different tune and shown why Pollard was cut from the Chiefs last year to begin with. While he’s still strong in run support, he’s been victimized more than any other Texan for touchdowns this season. His lousy pass defense is further accentuated by poor cornerback play. Pollard is a marginal safety, but can be a decent fill-in for a team with an already strong secondary, something the Texans cannot claim to have.

Atari Bigby (GB) – Bigby has plenty of potential as a safety, but also embodies the definition of injury-prone. Rookie Morgan Burnett was playing well before his season-ending injury and Charlie Peprah has been more than adequate as his replacement. Peprah’s also a free agent, but should be a cheaper alternative to the hard-hitting Bigby.

Other Notable Free Agents:
Matt Ware (ARZ)
Haruki Nakamura (BAL)
Tom Zbikowski (BAL)
George Wilson (BUF)
Gerald Alexander (CAR)
Chinedum Ndukwe (CIN)
Gibril Wilson (CIN)
Danieal Manning (CHI)
Abram Elam (CLE)
Sabby Piscitelli (CLE)
Alan Ball (DAL)
Gerald Sensabaugh (DAL)
Charlie Peprah (GB)
Anthony Smith (GB)
Melvin Bullitt (IND)
Sean Considine (JAC)
Tyrell Johnson (MIN)
Husain Abdullah (MIN)
Brandon McGowan (NE)
Jarrad Page (NE)
Darren Sharper (NO)
Michael Johnson (NYG)
Deon Grant (NYG)
Brodney Pool (NYJ)
Eric Smith (NYJ)
Lawyer Milloy (SEA)
Reed Doughty (WAS)

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