The Left Side Cornerback spot for the Denver Broncos has been stalwartly defended by All-Pro Champ Bailey. However, the future Hall of Famer's contract is up this year and their is an uncertainty that he will finish his career in a Broncos uniform. I am certainly not advocating letting this classy gentleman go to another team with or without compensation, but I will show you some other players who will be available in the instance that happens. Since there are quite a few candidates this off-season, I decided to give you all a break and divide it into two postings. Read on...
I will start with the man himself, Champ Bailey. He is 6' 0", 192 lbs, Age: 32 and in his 12th year. His 2010 salary was $9.5 Million. Even though a few other corners have leapfrogged Bailey over the last couple years, he still remains one of the better consistent corners even at his age. He allowed no touchdowns in 2009 and while there were contract negotiations going on during the season, they were dropped for reasons unknown. The Broncos may be waiting to see what happens with the CBA situation before deciding what type of contract to offer him. Champ is an exceptional cover corner. He plays well in "off" coverage because of his excellent closing speed. He anticipates and reads the quarterback well. Tracks the deep ball well and will fight for it. Can run with any receiver. A perennial Pro Bowler, Bailey is good in run support. He is a solid but not great tackler, but isn't as physical as he should at the line.
Chris Carr is the starter on the left side for the Baltimore Ravens. He is 5'10", 182 lbs, Age: 27 and in his 6th year he made $3,006,240 according to Yahoo. Chris is a play-maker. As a defensive back he anticipates and reacts very well, getting quickly to the action and making good hits & tackles. Will pick some balls off and can step up and blitz. He is also a very elusive return man. Carr doesn't have elite jets and is smallish for a defensive back, but is a solid defensive back and return man.
Johnathan Joseph is a starter for the Cincinnati Bengals. He is 5'11", 190 lbs, Age:26 and in his 5th year. His 2010 salary was $1.625 million. Joseph is physical and aggressive and is well on his way to developing into one of the league’s better corners. The good: He is an extremely fluid cover corner, has good hips and turns and runs well. He has great anticipation and instincts to make the pick an can support the run defense. The bad: He lets too much happen in front of him and doesn't always fight for jump balls. He also has some concentration lapses at times and could improve as a blitzer. Jonathan is an above-average starter. The team was expected to have extended either, or both, of their tandem this offseason, but nothing has yet materialized.
Chris Houston starts at LCB for the Detroit Lions. He is 5'11", 178 lbs, Age:26 and in his 4th year. Per Yahoo, he made $467,280 in 2010. Chris has a nice mix of athleticism, speed, and strength. He has shown the ability to shut down elite competition. He battles during the play and has a lot of confidence. Houston will make his share of mistakes reading plays and sometimes gets beaten. He also needs to learn to recognize double moves and make better decisions in zone coverage. He is a good starter with a lot of upside.
Michael Adams plays behind Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for the Arizona Cardinals. He is 5' 8", 181 lbs, Age:25 and in his 4th year. His salary was $465,070 in 2010 according to Yahoo. Feisty and intense, Adams is a battler and hard worker who does a very good job as a cover corner. He always has his head in the action and will make plays. Michael is a good Nickel back and special teamer. The downside is that he is highly undersized in both height and weight. He is not a big-play interception threat.
Brian Williams is a 2nd string CB for the Atlanta Falcons. He is 5'11", 202 lbs, Age:31 and in his 9th year. His 2010 contract was worth $1.6 million. Williams has solid overall coverage skills. He rarely gets burned deep but doesn't give up too many plays in front of him either. Brian is a sound run defender who can play the force position and contain the outside. A true No.2 corner, Williams is a very good starter, but can struggle covering elite receivers without help.
Tye Hill is a 2nd string CB for the Detroit Lions. He is 5'10", 186 lbs, Age: 28 and in his 5th year. He made $1,044,280 in 2010. Waived by the Tennessee Titans on September 4th of 2010, Tye was signed as a free agent by the Lions on December 2nd. He is a smooth cover corner who turns, cuts, and dips well. He is fundamentally sound and can run with anyone. Hill is tough for a small player. However, he doesn't match up well against big receivers and can be picked on by the top-tier speed-size guys. Tye is a nickel-type corner sometimes miscast as a shutdown guy. He is an adequate starter.
Elbert Mack is the back up LCB for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is 5'10", 175 lbs, Age:24 and in his 3rd year. He made $470,000 in 2010 and is a Restricted Free Agent. Mack is a speedster with good instincts who stays with his man and can drop into zone coverage when needed. He has excellent tackling skills. because of his size, he will lose one-on-one battles against big and physical receivers. He is a capable starter.
Justin King is the 2nd string LCB for the St. Louis Rams. He is 5'11", 188 lbs, Age: 23 and in his 3rd year. He made $317,280 in 2010 and is also a Restricted Free Agent. This kid is a real speedster. He's also a smart player and hard worker who can keep up against top wideouts and break plays. Justin can also contribute on special teams. He still has some work to do though, because there are some questions about his overall focus and aggressiveness. His lack of bulk and height is also an issue. Still, King is an adequate reserve corner or emergency starter.
Eric Wright plays for the Cleveland Browns. He is 5'10", 190 lbs, Age: 25 and in his 4th year. His 2010 salary was $550,000. Eric injured his knee in Week 13 and was placed on Injured Reserve December 20, 2010. He has already shown numerous signs that he will develop into a fine cornerback. He has a knack for making plays an has excellent skills in man coverage, following receivers step for step. He makes great reads and will pick the errant pass or break up plays. Eric is a good tackler but not a punishing hitter who could support the run defense more. He isn't much of a factor on blitzing schemes and has off-the-field issues. A good cover corner. He’s been a starter for the Browns since he was a rookie and has steadily progressed with each season. The Browns are very high on Wright and will make him a priority next year.
Ellis Hobbs of the Philadelphia Eagles, is 5'9", 195 lbs, Age: 27 and in his 6th year. His 2010 salary was $2,551,720. Hobbs was placed on injured reserve November 22, 2010 with a Neck injury. Fast and quick, Ellis can run and cut with the quickest receiver. He's a very energetic corner who will steal the occasional ball. He is also solid as a return man. Ellis struggles against some receivers due to a lack of size and is easy to block in run support. He doesn't have top instincts, but is a solid cornerback.
There is one more Left side cornerback who has recently become available. Nnamdi Asomugha had his contract voided by the Oakland Raiders last week. The final year in his contract was no longer in force because the Pro Bowl cornerback didn’t reach certain incentives. In February 2009, he signed a three-year, $45.3 million contract that made him the highest paid defensive back ever. The Raiders had a $16.8 million option for 2011 that would be voided if he didn’t meet certain objectives. It also had a clause where the Raiders couldn't use their Franchise Tag on him. He is 6'2", 210 lbs, Age:29 and in his 8th year.
Here is some perspective on the wages for the cornerbacks in the NFL.
The Green Bay Packers locked up one of their cornerbacks in November. Tramon Williams signed a five-year, $38.148 million contract. The deal contains $11.074 million guaranteed, including a $6 million signing bonus. Annual $1 million roster bonuses are available in years two through five. 2010: $5.074 million, 2011: $1 million (+ $2.5 million roster bonus), 2012: $2.3 million (+ $2.8 million roster bonus), 2013: $5.9 million (+ $300,000 roster bonus), 2014: $6.9 million (+ $300,000 roster bonus), 2015: Free Agent
Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets 9/6/2010: Signed a four-year, $46 million contract. The deal contains $32.5 million guaranteed, all paid in the first two seasons. 2010: $7.5 million (+ $18 million option bonus), 2011: $7 million, 2012: $7.5 million, 2013: $6 million, 2014-2016: Under Contract, 2017: Free Agent
DeAngelo Hall of the Washington Redskins. 2/27/2009: Signed a six-year, $55 million contract. The deal contains $22.5 million guaranteed, including a $15 million option bonus. 2011: $4.5 million, 2012: $6 million, 2013: $7.5 million, 2014: $9 million, 2015: Free Agent
The Franchise/Transition tags for 2010 are $9.6 million/$8.1 million.
As I stated earlier, I like Champ Bailey and would like him to retire as a Bronco, but with a new management system no one can say for sure if he will be with us for the 2011 NFL season (if there is one). Do not be surprised if the 32nd ranked Defense last year gets demolished and gutted. It could happen. With that said, stay tuned for the Right side cornerbacks, up next.