Jets Free Agency | Exploring the Cornerback Market

Longtime Pro Bowlers Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman Headline the Corners with Expiring Contracts 

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Cornerbacks (listed alphabetically) on the Roster (GP/GS in 2020 Season)
Bless Austin (11/10), Kyron Brown (0/0), Corey Ballentine (6/0), Elijah Campbell (3/0), Javelin Guidry (11/2), Bryce Hall (8/7), Lamar Jackson (13/6), Zane Lewis (0/0), Arthur Maulet (11/5), Brian Poole (8/6)

Potential Free Agents
Unrestricted: Poole, Maulet
Exclusive Rights: Brown

Jets' CB Free Agency Snapshot
The defensive secondary presents the Jets' new coaching regime with a challenge and an opportunity.

HC Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich plan to construct an aggressive, ferocious unit with an emphasis on speed and size. All are necessary skills for cornerbacks in the NFL, especially for those on teams that mix coverages with Cover-3 and Cover-2 packages along with man looks.

Two current cornerbacks, Bless Austin and Bryce Hall (both drafted by the Jets) have the size at 6-1 that appeals to Saleh and Ulbrich and both defenders play physical on the outside. Javelin Guidry is an intriguing "project," who opened some eyes his rookie campaign.

When speaking about constructing the roster -- first there are collegiate pro days, then free agency and finally the NFL Draft in late April -- Saleh has been emphatic that it is a collaborative effort from top to bottom. One thing Saleh did make clear is that once the roster is put together, how the defense plays during a game will be up to Ulbrich.

"Everyone has to find their connection to the players, with the mindset that we're going to get these guys better every day," Saleh said. "The entire organization is moving in the direction we want." He added: "We're going to have the same fundamentals, but I do want him to add wrinkles to make it better. Evolution should be the forefront of our minds in every aspect of football."

Take a look at the Jets players slated to become unrestricted, restricted, or exclusive rights free agents when the NFL's free agency period begins.

Free Agent Candidate Capsules
CB Richard Sherman (6-3, 195), San Francisco
Last season, Sherman said defenders battled for Robert Saleh, the 49ers' former defensive coordinator, and raved about his leadership and game-planning skills. What Sherman might give away with his age (he will turn 33 on March 30), his reservoir of experience and willingness to mentor younger players could be invaluable for a young team in transition. Saleh and Sherman have a mutual admiration for the other, and Sherman's five Pro Bowl selections, three All-Pro honors and a Super Bowl title would translate into strong leadership and a been-there, done-that mentality.

CB Patrick Peterson (6-1, 203), Arizona
Peterson, who will turn 31 in July, was the first cornerback taken in the 2011 NFL Draft, the No. 5 selection overall, by the Cardinals out of LSU. Peterson is durable (he's played in all 16 games every season except one; in 2019 he served a six-game suspension for breaching league rules on performance-enhancing drugs), and has been to the Pro Bowl eight times and is a three-time All-Pro. He put his durability on display in the 2020 season, playing in 99 percent of Arizona's defensive snaps. Peterson also has a familial link to the Jets: One of his mother's cousins is former receiver Santana Moss.

CB K'waun Williams (5-9, 185), San Francisco
This free agent could work on a couple of levels: His obvious link to Saleh, but also Williams' link to New Jersey, having grown up in Paterson and played in high school at St. Joseph in Montvale. Heading into his seventh season in the NFL, Williams (who will turn 30 in July) knows Saleh's defense and could comfortably fit in as the slot (nickel) corner when defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich goes with five or six DBs. The well-respected Brian Poole, who started his career in Atlanta on a defensive staff that included Ulbrich, is a free agent.

CB William Jackson III (6-0, 196), Cincinnati
A standout in man-to-man coverage, Jackson is a Bengals former first-round draft pick (2016, No. 24 overall) and is only 27. He finished last season with 45 tackles, 1 interception and a 11 passes defended, playing more than 90 percent of the snaps in every game except for Week 17. According to SI.com, Jackson was a shutdown corner in 2017, allowing the second-lowest catch rate by a corner since 2006 (34.9%), facing No. 1 WRs like Antonio Brown. A couple of modest seasons were followed by a strong 2020 when Pro Football Focus had him ranked No. 20 of 121 CBs.

Shaquill Griffin (6-0, 194), Seattle
Griffin, a third -round (90th overall) draft pick in 2017, was a Pro Bowl selection in 2019 who had a modest 2020 season for the Seahawks. He notched two interceptions in Seattle's first six games (he finished the season with 3 INTs), but also allowed 5 TD passes in those half-dozen games. He sustained a hamstring injury in Week 7, missing four games and finishing the season with only 12 starts -- the fewest of his four-year NFL career. With time running out on the regular season and a free-agent deal bobbing on the horizon, Griffin, 25, stepped it up. He rounded out the season by allowing opponents 20 receiving yards or fewer over five of seven games and did not allow a TD in that span. Pro Football Focus gave him a solid grade of 77 last season and Griffin has the potential to be a shutdown corner.

CB Michael Davis (6-2, 196), Los Angeles Chargers_ USA Toda_y calls Davis one of the "most underrated" free-agent cornerbacks. Still only 26, Davis signed with the Chargers as an undrafted FA in 2017 and signed a one-year deal with the team before the 2020 season. (He served a two-game suspension in 2019 under the league's substance abuse policy.) Davis played more than 92% of the Chargers' snaps in the 2020 season, but probably won't come cheap after earning more than $3 million last year. He played in all 16 games, as well, allowing 56 of 92 passes to be completed for 689 yards, 2 TDs, and 3 INTs. He tied for seventh among cornerbacks with a total of 14 passes defended. Among a position group laden with veteran players, Davis (along with Shaquill Griffin, Cameron Sutton and Ahkello Witherspoon) are on the south side of 30.

CB Quinton Dunbar (6-2, 202), Seattle
After trading for Dunbar ahead of the 2020 season, a knee injury (and an early-season suspension) limited him to only six games for the Seahawks. Dunbar, who played five seasons for Washington, will turn 29 in July. After playing in only 24 games across the past three seasons, he could be a player motivated to put his recent past behind him.

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