By now, you understand that defense matters. And as much as we love our fantasy and the passing game, those men who can stop the passing game from being fantasy relevant are just as important.
The secondary’s safeties have already been noted. Now is the time to get with the cornerbacks who will be free agents this year. There are a ton of quality cornerbacks coming on the market. However, the majority have suffered injuries that have limited their seasons. Will teams reach for an injury-plagued cornerback and hope for the best? It remains to be seen.
The teams that may be looking for quality cornerbacks also gave up the most fantasy points to the wide receiver position in the 2022 season. The top five teams who gave the most fantasy points to the wide receiver are the Tennessee Titans, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, and the Carolina Panthers. So, let’s see what cornerback free agents are available to tighten up that porous output.
7. Marcus Peters, Baltimore Ravens
Peters returned from a torn ACL suffered in 2021, so his start was understandably slow. He was also sidelined for the season’s final three weeks with a calf strain. For the season, he allowed a passer rating of 116.3 on 62 targets. He allowed 44 receptions and had one interception on 501 coverage snaps. He did not record multiple interceptions for the first time in his career.
For the so-so news, Peters has 32 career interceptions (104 games for those counting).
And the better news, the teams that will target (no pun intended) Peters are looking for a steady (when healthy) ball hawk who provides leadership and passion.
Spotrac has Peters’s market value at $9.8 million a year.
Peters is on this list for the intangibles he brings to the game.
Best Landing Spot: Staying with Baltimore and being the CB2 to Marlon Humphrey’s CB1.
6. Byron Murphy, Arizona Cardinals
Murphy increased his stock this season by playing mostly on the outside. He earned his highest overall (66.7) and coverage (63.9) grades while missing eight games with a back injury.
But he also allowed a passer rating of 103.1 in coverage, increasing from his 87.6 in the 2021 season. His four pass breakups in 2022 contrast with his 12 pass breakups and four interceptions in 2021.
His expected new contract is $8.75 million a year.
Best Landing Spot: The Minnesota Vikings allowed the third most yards per pass (7.3). New defensive coordinator Brian Flores’ schemes are traditionally ranked in the top four of man coverage rates, would allow a healthy 25-year-old Murphy to play to his strengths and add experience to the cornerbacks should the Vikings part ways with Patrick Peterson. And Murphy’s price tag could ultimately end up being a bargain.
5. Patrick Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Per NFL.com, the 12-year pro was “the only outside cornerback with at least 100 man-coverage snaps to be targeted at less than a 12 percent rate. When targeted on nine of his 111 man-coverage snaps in 2022 (8.1%),” he racked up an 82.5 coverage grade. His 80.7 overall trade was the second-highest make of his career.
Peterson also added 12 pass breakups and intercepted 6.9% of passes in his coverage.
Best Landing Spot:
Who am I to argue with cryptic tweets? Minnesota Vikings.
4. Rock Ya-Sin, Las Vegas Raiders
Let’s go over his 2022 stats: His 74.4 coverage grade when lined up out wide ranks 27th, and his 70.9 coverage grade in press coverage ranks 23rd. He had an 18.2% forced incompletion percentage when lined up out wide, which ranked 19th, and his 0.67 yards per coverage snap ranks fifth.
It also helps that at 26, he and Jamel Dean are the only pure outside cornerbacks in the free-agent market this season.
Ya-Sin’s drawback is that in the past two seasons, he has missed 10 games.
Best Landing Spot: Las Vegas Raiders and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s man-heavy scheme fit well with Ya-Sin’s skill set. Can he remain healthy, and is his calculated market value of $10.8 million a year (per Spotrac) too rich for the Raiders?
3. Cameron Sutton, Pittsburgh Steelers
Sutton was a full-time starter on the outside for the second time during the 2022 season. He completed the season with a 71 coverage grade, only allowing 411 receiving yards, the ninth fewest among cornerbacks with at least 400 coverage snaps. He only allowed a 56.7 passer rating per Next Gen Stats, the fifth-best mark for corners with at least 250 coverage snaps.
During his NFL career, Sutton has demonstrated his versatility. He has played 906 snaps as the slot corner and 1846 as an outside cornerback. He plays both man and zone coverages and has had five interceptions in the last two seasons.
Best Landing Spot: New York Giants would be happy to have a versatile cornerback. It is also a bonus that he only missed one game in 2022.
The problem is the Giants have two big free agents they need to keep in-house, and Sutton’s market value of $7.6 million a year on a three-year deal (per Spotrac.com) may not fit into the Giants’ spending plans.
2. James Bradberry, Philadelphia Eagles
Talking about turning a situation around, Bradberry gets cut from the New York Giants, signs with the Eagles for a one-year $7.5 million deal, and proves his worth. Bradberry’s 19 forced incompletions were second-best, and he had the fourth-best mark with his 46% completion percentage.
Bradberry started all 17 games, had 17 passes defended, three interceptions, and had a 74.1 overall grade from Pro Football Focus.
Best Landing Spot: Bradberry teamed with Jeff Okudah in the Detroit Lions’ secondary feels good. Although Okudah had career-high 73 tackles and a career-high seven passed defended, the Lions had the 30th-ranked pass defense allowing 245.8 yards per game. While the defense was the worst in the league in total yards allowed per game, topping out at 392.4.
1. Jamel Dean, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dean gave up the fifth-fewest receiving yards per Next Gen Stats as the nearest defender among all NFL cornerbacks. He had eight passes defended, 54 tackles, and tied for the team lead with two interceptions. Dean played 78.9% of the Buccaneers’ defensive snaps in 2022.
Over the last three seasons, he had allowed a completion rate of 53.8% when targeted, the fifth best among all NFL defensive backs, per Next Gen Stats.
In his 57 games, he has 193 tackles, six tackles for loss, seven interceptions, one interception returned for a touchdown, and 41 passes defended.
Best Landing Spot: Tennessee Titans had the best run defense in the league. And the worst secondary. It was 32nd, allowing 274.8 passing yards. They allowed an average of 6.96 yards per pass play (25th), allowed a 65.4% completion percentage and had 14 interceptions.