January 5, 2016

Now that the NFL regular season has concluded, we are getting to the point of the year where the top 20 of the Draft order has been settled and collegiate players are declaring for the NFL Draft.


Of course, before the Draft comes Free Agency, and we will be doing a Team-by-Team Offseason Blueprint feature in the coming weeks on what each NFL franchise needs to do from top to bottom this upcoming offseason to become more competitive in 2016 and beyond.


We don't know what will happen between now and Free Agency in March, and now until the Draft in April is even murkier waters, but what we do know is how much estimated cap room each team is slated to have going into this offseason and which players are set to hit the open market.


So with that being said, let's think through it and connect some dots. I have identified the Top 10 upcoming Free Agent Cornerbacks with a little analysis to explain the logic behind where I think they will land next year. 



No chance the Panthers let Norman walk this offseason. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Although their first extension offer to Norman and his camp was almost comical, there is a little something called the Franchise Tag hovering over Norman's head if the two sides can't come to a long-term solution. What else is comical is how PFF values Josh Norman - they finished the season with Norman graded as the 18th best CB in the NFL. Can you name 17 better players at the position? I certainly can't.



Going from one 3-4 team to another, the Titans can create an extra $8 million in cap space by cutting ties with abysmal veteran FS Michael Griffin, and I would expect them to allocate some of that number to bolstering their secondary. While players like Eric Berry or Tashaun Gipson are certainly appealing to replace Griffin, the Titans need a CB1 badly, with Jason McCourty grading out in the 40s and Perrish Cox leaving a lot to be desired. Sean Smith finished the 2015 season as the 14th highest graded CB according to PFF, boasting an 83.9 OVR grade.



This is a tough one to call. The Packers love re-signing their own players, especially ones as talented as Hayward. The reason why they potentially won't this time around stems from the flashes we've seen of rookies Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, both of whom have earned more reps in 2016 and come at a significantly lower cost. If Hayward doesn't return to Green Bay, expect teams like the Redskins, Steelers, Colts and Chargers to vye for his services. I'm going with the Colts in my predictions because with the retention of Grigson, the GM has promised to amend his philosophy and bring more players in under the age of 30. Hayward turns 27 in September and would be a nice compliment across from Vontae Davis.



Prince Amukamara probably has not played up to the level of his high first round draft selection, but that does not mean he is not a decent cornerback. Amukamara's NFL career has been marred by injury, but when he does see the field, he is a dependable CB2. Prince seems to enjoy living in the NY/NJ metro area and would work with the Giants on returning at a decent salary. The Giants have other needs on the defensive side of the ball to try and fill through the draft and free agency, and I don't think they are particularly willing to add CB to that list if they can avoid it.



Good News: The Rams have a ton of cap room headed into next season (est. $39,280,000). Bad News: Both of their starting CBs are set to hit free agency, with Trumaine Johnson also scheduled to walk. While they are flushed with cash, I don't see GM Les Snead spending $17 - $20 million of it on two players at the same position, especially with talented youngster EJ Gaines coming back after suffering an unfortunate season-ending injury early in the season. Jenkins was a knucklehead off the field dating back to his Gator roots, but since has seemed to mellow out at the next level. If Jenkins does walk, watch out for the Jaguars to try and swoop in and bring him back to the Swamp.



It me, the team with the most cap room in the NFL. Patrick Robinson was cast away from New Orleans before last offseason (bet ya wish you kept him now instead of signing Brandon Browner, huh Mickey Loomis?) but in a one-year "prove it" deal with the Chargers, Robinson has definitely proved it. Robinson played most of the season as a nickel corner, but filled in for stud Jason Verrett when he was inactive for injury and played extremely well. With both the Chargers and Raiders potentially moving to Los Angeles, Robinson midas whale start looking for apartments in the greater LA area.



As I was updating NFL Depth Charts on this site weekly throughout the season, one thing struck me - the Bengals were almost never on the transactions report. This tells me that they really like their roster, and my first inclination would be that Marvin Lewis would like to keep this team in tact as much as possible. Leon Hall, despite being 31 when the 2016 season kicks off, ranked right between Darrelle Revis and Casey Hayward on PFF this year, and his game isn't built around incendiary speed to begin with. I imagine the feeling is mutual, too, and Hall would rather return to the perennial playoff Bengals than go play for a team like the 49ers at this point in his career, despite an inevitably larger pay day elsewhere.



The 49ers are in desperate need of CB help. They have over $40 million in cap room headed into next season, and this move would also help weaken a division rival. Makes sense, huh? Johnson was the 16th best CB in the NFL in 2015 according to PFF, earning himself an 83.7 OVR grade.



For the same reasons listed above for Leon Hall, I believe the Bengals will want to retain the services of Adam Jones, who has had a stellar season in Cincinnati (11th best CB after Stephon Gilmore). I believe there is also a feeling of gratefulness to the Bengals organization, who gave the formerly known "Pac Man" a second chance after his NFL career had almost flamed out early on. Despite having a strong season, Jones will be 33 next season, so his market won't be too active (insert Ryan Grigson joke here).



What the hell, Pittsburgh? You gave up a 5th round pick for one of the better nickel corners in the NFL and then don't play him? Were you trying to hide him on your roster to depreciate his value going into free agency? News flash - it didn't work. The fact that these guys continuously played Antwon freaking Blake over him just makes my brain hurt. Anyway, Boykin could have a new lease on life in Tampa, who have the cap space to offer him an aggressive deal and could use a strong nickel corner.


*All Cap Projections are from www.spotrac.com



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