COMMENTARY | Just as the Indianapolis Colts picked a good year to tank a season and then need a franchise quarterback at the same time Andrew Luck was wrapping up his Stanford career, the team has picked an excellent year to be in need of some help in the defensive backfield. The crop of free agent cornerbacks in the NFL is plentiful, providing both depth in talent and--in theory, anyway--the potential to get one at a reasonable price, thanks to increased supply.
Here are three interesting free agent cornerbacks--in no particular order--to keep an eye on as free agency opens on March 12.
There's no shortage of talent here. Talib was the No. 20 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, selected out of Kansas by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and over his six seasons in the league, he has 50 starts, 19 interceptions, 56 passes defensed and four touchdowns.
But there are some serious concerns that go with him. He has a history of off-field violence resulting in legal issues, and he was suspended for four games in 2012 for testing positive for Adderall. Talib stayed out of trouble after being traded to the Patriots in November, but there are rumblings that his questionable work ethic gives the Pats pause in offering him a long-term contract. Nick Underhill of MassLive.com also provides some statistical data that suggests Talib may not have been as effective last season for New England as the media lets on.
Should the Patriots allow Talib to test free agency, the Colts will definitely need to do their research on him, but the potential is there for solid experienced cornerback who, at age 27, should have a few more good years of football left in him.
Brent Grimes, Atlanta Falcons
Grimes took a different path to prominence in the NFL than did Talib. An undrafted free agent out of Shippensburg University in 2006, Grimes spent 2007 with the Hamburg Sea Devils of NFL Europe before gaining a spot on the 53-man roster of the Falcons later that year.
Since then, he has racked up 43 starts, 13 interceptions, 56 passes defensed and a trip to the 2010 Pro Bowl. Heading into the 2012 season, Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus wrote that Grimes "may very well be the best cover corner in the league after [New York Jets cornerback Darrelle] Revis."
Two red flags about Grimes, however: he'll turn 30 right before the 2013 season begins, and he missed the vast majority of the 2012 season after blowing out his Achilles tendon in Week 1. Can a 30-year-old come back from a potential career-ending injury like that? There lies the risk in Grimes.
Chris Houston, Detroit Lions
A second-round draft pick out of Arkansas by the Falcons in 2007, Houston spent the first three seasons of his career in Atlanta before joining the Lions in 2010. The 28-year-old has 79 starts to his name, defending 71 passes, pulling down 11 interceptions and returning three of them for touchdowns in his NFL career. In January, he was voted by his teammates as the Lions' most valuable defensive player.
He's durable, missing only a handful of games over his career, and there's no indication of any off-field problems with him.
The downside to Houston, then, is going to be his price tag. He's likely going to command top dollar in free agency.
At an estimated $40 million under the salary cap, the Colts have the luxury of spending big money on a solid veteran, but is Houston that veteran? Or do they address another need--such as the offensive line--with that money and go after a younger, riskier, cheaper cornerback instead?
What other cornerbacks are out there in free agency that you feel would be a good investment by the Indianapolis Colts?