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NFL Free Agency: Stop gap options at cornerback aren’t great, but they’re cheap

Here we go again

Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The Eagles face a dilemma: they need both long and short term answers at corner, particularly corners who can play on the outside, and that’s not a position where a rookie can be expected to take over a starting job and make an impact the way a rookie lineman, running back, or linebacker can. Even if they draft two corners in this deep class—and they should—they need some veteran help. The current roster doesn’t provide much. Jalen Mills will get his chances, but he’s probably best in the slot. Ron Brooks was fine in the slot but isn’t an option on the outside. Dwayne Gratz finished the season as a healthy scratch for the Eagles, his third team of the year. But big name/money free agent corners are a very risky proposition. As ugly as it may seem, signing another stopgap corner might be the wisest move to compliment a possible young core of corners.

Today we’ll look at some corners with starting experience that shouldn’t break the bank and aren’t on the wrong side of 30 the the Eagles could sign—or not sign. There’s not much to chose from here, but they’re also lower risk moves than adding one of the bigger name free agents.

Nolan Carroll

The Eagles and Eagles fans know Carroll well, he is 30 and coming off his only full season as a starter. Bringing him back wouldn’t be the worst idea, but it shouldn’t be a priority.

Malcolm Butler

Butler is a restricted free agent, and restricted free agents rarely change teams. But it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for the Patriots to get a good return in a trade for starter plucked out of the obscurity of undrafted free agency.

Ross Cockrell

A 2014 4th round draft pick by the Bills—when Jim Schwartz was their defensive coordinator—Cockrell was cut after one season. He never started in Buffalo, but in Pittsburgh he started every game in 2016. He’ll be 26 when the season starts, and of course Schwartz is quite familiar with him. He’ll be a restricted free agent, so he’s not likely to go anywhere, but he’s worth keeping an eye on.

Marcus Cooper

Another corner with some familiarity to the coaching staff, Cooper spent three years in Kansas City as a backup before being traded to the Cardinals, where he worked his way into the starting line up. With the Cardinals still a veteran laden team and having given up a (very late) draft pick for him (a conditional 2018 7th rounder), they’re probably inclined to bring him back, but at 27 if he’s on the market he could be an option for a lot of teams.

Justin Gilbert

Another corner traded for a 2018 pick (a 6th) during the cut down to 53 man rosters, the Steelers took a chance on Gilbert, who was a bust in two seasons with the Browns. He played just 11 snaps on defense and was released two weeks ago.

The Eagles shouldn’t be interested in him at all.

DJ Hayden

Like Gilbert, Hayden was a 1st round bust, though he’s dealt with injury issues throughout his career. He’s started just 25 of his 45 games in Oakland, who didn’t pick up his 5th year option last year. After 13 starts in 2015, he moved to the slot in 2016. He’ll be 27 when the season starts, so someone might take a chance on his injury history and draft status as a reclamation project.

Leodis McKelvin

Just kidding.

Sterling Moore

Unless he re-signs with the Saints, Moore will be on his 7th team in 8 years. He’ll find a home somewhere, and for cheap. At 27, he wouldn’t be the worst option for a team looking for someone to keep the seat warm.

Captain Munnerlyn

The 5’9” Munnerlyn was a starter for the Panthers then Vikings for four years, then moved inside to the slot in 2015. With so many corners in the draft that can play slot he probably won’t be in high demand.