Taking a look at the cornerback market after Washington loses Ronald Darby

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Peter Hailey
·4 min read
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Taking a look at the CB market after Washington loses Darby originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The first Washington-related news in free agency isn't about the team adding a player, it's about losing one.

On Monday, Ronald Darby reportedly agreed to a three-year contract with the Broncos. The defensive back will earn almost $20 million guaranteed thanks to the move, which can become official on Wednesday.

So, cornerback — which, for the record, was still in need of reinforcements with Darby — is now suddenly a weak spot for Washington. After Kendall Fuller, the depth chart is pretty empty and also unproven.

If Ron Rivera and the front office opts to use free agency in order to address the position, here are some pros they'll be considering...

William Jackson III: Jackson III was a first-round pick by the Bengals in 2016 after a nice career in college at Houston, and while he only recorded three interceptions in 59 games for Cincy, he'll make a lot of money whenever he identifies his next home. Should the Burgundy and Gold choose to really attack the void in their secondary, WJ3 (that doesn't flow too smoothly, does it?) is the guy to pursue.

Richard Sherman: The likely Hall of Famer will be 33 in a few weeks, so his career is winding down. He was also only healthy enough for five contests in 2020. That said, he can still contribute in the right scheme, and if championship pedigree is something Rivera wants more of, Sherman certainly satisfies that.

Patrick Peterson: While on the subject of popular-yet-declining vets, now's the time to tick off Peterson. He was stellar for the Cardinals for a huge stretch, but that stretch is in the rearview. Would he have more success with lower expectations and behind the team's stacked front? 

Desmond King II: A few offseasons ago, King would be the No. 1 name on this list; in 2018, he was a first-team All Pro as a corner and a second-team All Pro as a returner for the Chargers. He hasn't come close to that kind of sterling production since, though, and this past November, Los Angeles shipped him to Tennessee for a meager sixth-round choice. Maybe King can be Rivera's next reclamation project. Also worth noting: He's known for excelling in the slot, whereas Darby lined up on the outside.

Mike Hilton: Hilton is another slot defender, meaning he may not be a perfect one-to-one replacement for Darby. Even so, he's worth mentioning because he's fantastic at what he does, and that goes far beyond his work in coverage. Signing Hilton and then drafting someone who's more comfortable on the boundary could be an ideal way to upgrade the entire unit.

Janoris Jenkins: Jenkins is getting up there in age. He's only slightly younger than Sherman. Therefore, he might be a candidate for a one-year contract. He's recorded a pick in 10 straight campaigns, so he has a serious track record, and he was only recently cut by the Saints so they could work their way to a better salary cap situation.

Shaquill Griffin: In Quinton Dunbar, Rivera sent one corner to Seattle last offseason. In Griffin, he could take one from the Seahawks and bring him to Washington. Because he'll only be 26 in Week 1 and because he's shown an ability to perform at a high level, even if only at times, he'll come with a price. Washington has the cap space to make it work, however.

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Malcolm Butler: The Super Bowl XLIX hero had a strong 2020 with the Titans and can fit into multiple schemes, which will appeal to Rivera and Jack Del Rio. In terms of cost, he won't break the bank, either. 

Bashaud Breeland: The ex-Washington player makes this list because the Panthers, back when Rivera was head coach, were a step away from inking him to a contract in 2018 before an off-the-field foot injury halted the acquisition. He will have some up-and-down Sundays, but he's competitive and also has familiarity with Fuller, seeing as they won a title together in Kansas City.

Others on the market: Josh Norman (sorry), Quinton Dunbar, K'Waun Williams, Troy Hill, Chidobe Awuzie, Xavier Woods and Xavier Rhodes.