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Free Agency Preview: Cornerback
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In the days leading up to the start of NFL free agency on March 9, the writers of PFW will take a snapshot look at New England’s greatest roster needs, and how those might be filled with veteran players who are slated to become available to sign. Today’s focus: cornerbacks.
Potential Patriots: Janoris Jenkins (LA Rams), Jerraud Powers (Arizona), Prince Amukamara (NY Giants), William Gay (Pittsburgh), Tarell Brown (New England)
When New England lost Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner after just one season, the cornerback position suddenly went from one of the biggest strengths of the roster to perhaps the biggest question mark. Malcolm Butler, the Super Bowl XLIX savior, more than answered the call as Revis’ replacement at left corner. He was an ironman at the position, covering every opponent’s best receiver, and earning a Pro Bowl distinction in just his second NFL season.
On the other side, veteran Logan Ryan eventually became a regular starter, but his performance was inconsistent, as it has been throughout his Patriots career. New England might look to upgrade its No. 2 corner spot via free agency, where Carolina’s Josh Norman might be the biggest name available, but will likely command top dollar as a No. 1 corner.
As a result, players like Jenkins or Powers might be worth exploring, although Jenkins will likely have plenty of other suitors as well. The 27-year-old Jenkins has been a starter for the Rams since his rookie season, and has been fairly durable, starting all but two of the 60 games in which he’s appeared over the past four years. He averages 2.5 interceptions per season, and two of his 10 career picks were big plays – a 99-yard touchdown return and 41-yard pick-six.
Powers, meanwhile, is only a year older, but has three more years of NFL experience than Jenkins (four with Indianapolis, the past three in Arizona). While only slightly less durable than Jenkins, Powers is an undisputed starter when healthy. He’s less of a playmaker than Jenkins, but for a No. 2 corner, he’d be more than qualified.
Amukamara has struggled with injuries in the NFL, but possesses the talent to be in the discussion if the two aforementioned candidates are unavailable.
The 31-year-old Gay, meanwhile, might be similar to Brown, who was brought in last season with the idea of being that complement to Butler on the right side, but was lost for the season with a foot injury that he brought with him from prior stops in Oakland and San Francisco.