Occasionally, we get the good fortune of passing along news at the same time that we offer some analysis. Yesterday, the New York Giants released cornerback James Bradberry in a cost cutting move. The one time Pro Bowl corner signed a three year, 45 million dollar contract with the Giants prior to the 2020 season. He started 31 games with the team in two seasons where he totaled seven interceptions, had 81 solo tackles, and defended 35 passes.
Supposedly, the Giants had been trying to trade Bradberry and that is where the Texans come in. Yesterday, it was reported that the Texans and Giants had a deal in principle for a late round pick prior to the draft, but could not agree on the financial terms of the deal. The numbers above look glittery, so the question is whether Bradberry would have been worth the cost. Of course, now they can bid anything they want and it remains to be seen what he actually is worth.
What did the Giants know?
It’s hard to say how to grade these things exactly, but a lot of those on the inside rely on sites like Pro Football Focus. The PFF grades for Bradberry relay something different than the numbers would suggest above. According to PFF, Bradberry came in with a 62.8 overall grade. That tied him for 58th among 116 qualifying corners. In his particular situation, that grade goes up to a 65.0 when you just considering coverage.
The downside is that he scored a paltry 47.6 in the run game. Of course, any individual fan and executive has to decide if these numbers mean anything to them. If you take them at face value then you get the impression that Bradberry was an average corner last season. Calling a player average always seems like an insult, but it really isn’t. There are just as many corners below him as there are above him.
If one were to sign Bradberry what exactly would they be getting? Well, he has been in the league six seasons and exactly half of his seasons saw him come in well above that 62.8 mark including a robust 79.8 in 2020 when he fully deserved a Pro Bowl selection. However, these numbers are meaningless without a frame of reference.
Where are the rest of the Texans?
The Texans recently signed Steven Nelson to a two year, 10 million dollar contract. His 63.6 PFF grade ranked 52nd among the 116 qualifying corners. In other words, he seemingly performed a little better even though his coverage grade came in below Bradberry at 61.4 to Bradberry’s 65.0.
The cornerback room seems like it is in pretty good shape following the pick of Derek Stingley Jr. third overall. Nick Caserio is always very careful to manage expectations and that is certainly true of rookies. He is not going to be given a position, so if the Texans added another solid, but not spectacular corner then at least they could man both spots with someone reasonable.
Desmond King (re-signed) and Terrance Mitchell were the other corners to get snaps on the outside last year. King is really a slot corner that was masquerading as an outside corner because they had no one else. He played around 80 percent of his snaps on the outside and produced an overall grade of 53.0 and a coverage grade of 47.7. Both marks were the lowest of his career.
That got him ranked 101 out of 116 corners while Mitchell ranked 103rd with an overall grade of 52.4. It should be noted that former Texan Vernon Hargreaves came in with a robust 49.4 grade in Cincinnati. so the cornerback room has been pretty shaky over the past few seasons. However, thare are reasons to be optimistic. Tavierre Thomas came out of nowhere to rank 9th with a 77.6 overall grade and a 76.1 coverage grade playing primarily inside.
So is Bradberry worth it?
As always, these things depend on price. Only 21 corners are slated to make ten million or more per season in 2022. I don’t think Bradberry is one of those guys in terms of performance, but he might grade just below that. The general idea is to keep King on the inside with Thomas where he has graded well in the past. That would give you two good slot corners and three average to above average corners on the outside if you count Stingley Jr.
Given the difference between their run defense grades, you would probably want Nelson out there against teams like the Colts and Titans that rely on a heavy rushing attack. Bradberry would likely fare better against teams that throw the ball more. Since that is probably a majority of teams in today’s NFL, it would seem like he should have a spot on the team somewhere if they could come to an agreement.
His salary before put him in the top ten and the Giants realized he wasn’t a top ten corner. So, they cut him. That’s the way the NFL is supposed to work. The rest of the league adjusts to his new valuation and move accordingly. If you sign Bradberry you likely aren’t getting a Pro Bowl corner, but you’d be getting a solid one and no NFL team should be in the business of turning down solid corners.