In a cornerback free agent class highlighted by boundary corners like J.C. Jackson, Carlton Davis and Stephon Gilmore, quality nickel options might be getting swept under the rug. Mackensie Alexander is one of those under-talked-about nickel corners, and Denver may need his presence in 2022 with two of its top four corners from 2021 now unrestricted free agents.
With Denver now under new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, it’s unpredictable who’s deemed a fit in his scheme and what traits he values in a cornerback. If the former secondary coach is looking for a pesky, sound tackler inside of Patrick Surtain II and Ronald Darby, then Alexander might be the one he’s looking for.
Weight: 192 pounds
Experience: six years
Why it makes sense
Alexander was part of the Vikings’ 2016 draft class — drafted by a front office that included now-Broncos General Manager George Paton. Alexander didn’t play much in his first four years in Minnesota — he didn’t start 10 games until he left as a free agent in 2020 to Cincinnati — but Paton’s familiarity with the Clemson product gives Denver’s intel a leg up from other teams looking for Alexander’s services.
Denver has two unrestricted free agent corners this offseason — Bryce Callahan and Kyle Fuller. It’s likely that at least one of the two won’t be in orange and blue in 2022, and cornerbacks are at a premium in the high-octane AFC West. Having four quality cornerbacks — even if one won’t see too much playing time — would give Denver security at the position for the second year in a row, and it gives the defense its best shot of being the No. 3 scoring defense in football again as it has to defend dynamic quarterbacks Justin Herbert, Patrick Mahomes and Derek Carr for six of 17 games. Four solid corners on Denver’s roster specifically is evermore important, as both Callahan and Darby haven’t consistently played a full season during their respective careers.
Alexander has been primarily a nickel cornerback during his career, which means he shouldn’t command too high of a price. His affordability and fit inside of boundary cornerbacks Surtain II and Darby might be appealing to Denver.
Why it doesn’t make sense
There should be other priorities and holes for Denver to fill this offseason. Specifically, Paton has recently cited the importance of finding not only a quarterback but a right tackle, pass rushers and overall defensive depth this offseason. With at least Darby and Surtain II, cornerback won’t be too big of a hole, regardless of who plays in the nickel.
Paton said during his pressor at the NFL Combine that there are talks with Bryce Callahan’s side about a contract extension. While four quality corners are a treat, the fourth could be attained at a much cheaper price through the draft. Additionally on Denver’s cornerback depth chart are Essang Bassey, Michael Ojemudia and Nate Hariston, all of whom received playing time at various points in 2020 and/or 2021. Denver can find it’s fourth-string corner at a cheaper price than what Alexander will demand as a potential day-one free agency signee March 17.
Alexander’s likelihood of becoming a Denver Bronco hinges on Callahan’s contract: If Callahan gets resigned, Denver shouldn’t go after Alexander, being him and Callahan both play nickel. If Callahan goes elsewhere, then Denver should look long and hard at bringing the six-year veteran aboard.
Should the Broncos pursue Mackensie Alexander in free agency?
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