We continue our look at Free Agency with yet another position and possible FA candidates. This time, it's the cornerbacks. The biggest news regarding the position happened by way of DeAngelo Hall re-signing with the team to the tune of four years and $17M. Still, Josh Wilson and EJ Biggers are both FAs, David Amerson and Chase Minnifield are still relatively inexperienced, and Richard Crawford is coming off of a major injury. Our defense as a whole was weak this past season, and our secondary may have been the weakest part. The CB position clearly needs to be addressed. The only question is, how?
Having Hall back is a huge deal. He was far-and-away the best player in our secondary and will be the veteran leader/captain of the entire defense this coming season. With the departure of London Fletcher, that role can't be emphasized enough. It's expected that Hall will have another Pro-Bowl caliber year and continue to be one of the best players on that side of the ball for our unit. Josh Wilson was decent against the run last year (the Steven Jackson trucking aside), but he had a pretty miserable year in coverage. There's a very good chance he won't be retained. Biggers could be brought back on the cheap as a versatile insurance type player who can play a little CB and a little S, but not a lot of either. He'd be our fourth or fifth CB at best.
David Amerson is the real talking point. Many (including myself) believe he's ready to assume the starting role opposite Hall. If you're in that camp, then the need for a FA CB may be limited to a veteran to play the nickel. However, there are many on the other side of the coin who believe Amerson may still be too young, inexperienced, or just not good enough for that spot. If that's the case, the need for another starting-level CB is a priority. No matter how you put it, it's likely that at least one veteran will be brought in as Crawford is a huge unknown after the injury (and was probably never going to be more than a fourth or fifth CB, anyway) and Minnifield has yet to hardly even play and has an injury history of his own.
So, CB is a problem on this team and needs to be addressed. How do we do it? We'll probably draft somebody, though a rookie CB (especially one who isn't drafted in the first round) is unlikely to be an impact starter from day one. Still, Hall isn't a spring chicken anymore and it'd be a good idea to start preparing the position for the future. A vet will be brought in, either as a starter to allow Amerson more time to grow, or as a nickelback to replace Wilson. Here are a few options for Allen and co. to consider:
Weight: 184 lbs
Shields is coming off of a career year. In 14 starts, he had 51 tackles, 17 pass breakups, and four INTs (all career highs). He's also wicked fast as evidenced by his 4.3 40. He is going to get paid... a lot.
Weight: 187 lbs
Verner ended his contract year last season as a Pro Bowler and as an AP Second-Team All-Pro. He's good. Can play in the slot or on the outside and is equally great against the run or pass. Most expect he'll leave Tennessee and one team that has come up as a possible destination is Minnesota. Why isn't he a priority re-signing for the Titans?
Weight: 198 lbs
Tillman's getting up there in age a little bit, and his play has diminished somewhat, can he still play at a high level? He was great two years ago (like DPoY great), but not so much last year as he was injured half the season. He could follow Lovie and be a stopgap in TB and is right on the edge of the proverbial cliff. How much time before he falls off?
Weight: 205 lbs
Talib's sure to garner a lot of interest from a lot of teams after his stellar 2013 campaign (Pro Bowler and AP Second-Team All-Pro). He signed a one-year "prove myself" deal before last season and this year he's likely to get his last huge contract. The only question will be is he worth it? In his first four games last year, he had four picks and he finished the year with 35 tackles, the four INTs, and 13 passes defensed in 13 games. He has a history of off-the-field troubles and injuries, but when he's healthy, he's very physical and very good.
Weight: 195 lbs
Captain is designed for the slot. He's quite the playmaker from there as he's had four pick-sixes over the past two seasons. Munnerlyn's also done quite well on the blitz and even had 3.5 sacks last year. Obviously too undersized to play on the outside, but he's dynamite from the slot.
Others to Consider: