8 cornerbacks Jets GM Joe Douglas should target in NFL free agency

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Scott Thompson
·6 min read
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Shaquil Griffin/Xavier Rhodes
Shaquil Griffin/Xavier Rhodes

The Jets’ quarterback situation is the top priority for the front office and fans at the moment, but there are other needs GM Joe Douglas knows he must take care of at some point this offseason. One of them is at the cornerback position.

New York’s pass coverage was brutal last season, allowing 275.6 yards through the air per game – 28th in the league to be exact. The Jets had no choice but to trust their young cornerbacks like Bless Austin, Lamar Jackson and others on the outside. Opposing offenses, in turn, took advantage.

Now armed with ample cap space, Douglas can make one or two upgrades to the secondary, and there’s a variety of options available on the free agent market. New head coach Robert Saleh may make this a priority himself given his defensive prowess.

Worth noting: Brian Poole should be on the Jets’ radar to re-sign. He has manned the slot corner position for two seasons now and has delivered.

So, while the quarterback situation continues to unfold, let’s take a look at some of the best options for the Jets at cornerback to bolster that depth chart for next season:

Xavier Rhodes

The veteran corner joined the Indianapolis Colts last season after spending years with the Minnesota Vikings and flourished in the new defense. He earned a coverage grade of 78.9, per Pro Football Focus, while totaling two interceptions and 10 pass breakups. The Jets should remember well that Week 3 game against Indy, where Rhodes was absolutely lockdown (94.0 coverage grade) and collected two INTs.

He’s turning 31 in June, but Rhodes still has solid speed and a physical build to match up with receivers in the league. He’s also one of the few we’ll touch on who brings a veteran presence to this room that desperately needs it.

Shaquill Griffin

If the Seattle Seahawks aren’t already trying to re-sign Griffin, other teams will certainly be in his market, and the Jets should be included in that.

The Seahawks’ secondary was brutal in the pass game this past season, but Griffin was really one of the only consistent producers for that unit. He had a 64.8 coverage grade in 2020, but an even better mark at 77.0 in 2019. He also had a career-high three interceptions last season with 12 pass breakups as well.

Griffin will be 26 in July, which makes him a No. 1 cornerback option in his prime. Spotrac has a higher market value at 11 million per season for Griffin because of that, too. The Jets are still rebuilding, though, so getting someone like Griffin who is younger and has proven he can work with some of the best wideouts in the league may be worth the money in Douglas’ eyes.

Patrick Peterson

He’s been a lifelong Cardinal, but Peterson may take his talents elsewhere. And Saleh knows a thing or two about watching Peterson, considering his time with the 49ers.

Peterson is not afraid to work on an island and has the stat sheet to prove it after 10 seasons in Arizona, eight of which being Pro Bowl years. In 2020, he had eight pass breakups and three interception over 16 games with 61 combined tackles.

Leadership is one of the attributes Peterson brings to the table each day, and if he isn’t thinking about a new deal with his current team, the Jets may look at a short-term one the 30-year-old could be interested in to get a change of scenery. It will be weird to see Peterson in anything but red and white, though.

Richard Sherman

Sherman has been very vocal about the impact Saleh had on the San Francisco 49ers as well as his own career specifically. It’s why speculation about the veteran corner heading to New York to reunite with his defensive coordinator has been so heavy.

Like Peterson, Sherman is on the other side of 30, but his production hasn’t lacked. Though injury kept him out of many games in 2020, Sherman thrived under Saleh’s exceptional defense during the Niners’ 2019 Super Bowl run. Sherman owned a 90.5 coverage grade, which is absolutely outstanding. Saleh knows how to bring out the best in one of the most dominant corners in the game, and Sherman might want that same scheme in 2021.

Jason Verrett

Another 49er? Why not?

While Sherman was down, Verrett was picking up the slack in the 49ers’ secondary with a 76.1 coverage grade over 13 games. He’ll be turning 30 in June, but Verrett could be a cheaper option for the Jets with a lot of impact considering he doesn’t need time to learn Saleh’s system.

Cameron Sutton

There are rumors the Steelers may cut Joe Haden (and he could be another target if it happens), which would open up their books to re-sign someone like Sutton. If not, the Jets should be all over the soon-to-be 26-year-old.

The third-round pick out of Tennessee back in 2017 had a solid season with eight pass breakups, one interception and 30 combined tackles. And his three forced fumbles showed his knack for creating turnovers. With a more prominent role on the Jets – he only started six games last season – Sutton could see some untapped potential realized.

Troy Hill

It was his best season yet with the Los Angeles Rams, as Hill totaled three interceptions – two returned for touchdown – 10 passes defended and 77 combined tackles. Hill really upped his game for a defense that was one of the best in the league.

But considering Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams are also on that squad, he may be looking for a bigger role next season. The Jets can provide that for the undrafted rookie out of Oregon.

Chidobe Awuzie

Another young corner who could use a change of scenery, the Dallas Cowboys had a world of problems in 2020 on defense, and their secondary was one of them. Awuzie had a down year, too, with a 52.0 coverage grade and only five passes defended. Injury didn’t help his cause, either.

That hasn’t consistently been his production over his four years in the league, but the Cowboys may be looking to move on from him in a starting role depending on what their offseason plans might be. Mock drafts have the Cowboys going after one of the top corners like Patrick Surtain or Caleb Farley with the No. 10 overall pick.

If that’s the case, the Jets could scoop Awuzie up, figure out what went wrong in 2020, and move forward with the 26-year-old in a starting role he’s experienced for the last four seasons.