Free Agent Preview – Cornerbacks

This will be the final part of the free agent preview from TexansCap; in the final part we examine the cornerback free agent market.  The cornerback position was a very strong position group in 2016 with the emergence of A.J. Bouye, top veteran Johnathan Joseph, reliable Kareem Jackson, and young second year 1st round selection Kevin Johnson.  Heading into 2018 the organization is now looking at serious lack of depth at the position with an aging Kareem Jackson and often injured Kevin Johnson as the two potential starters, and 2017 6th round selection Treston Decoud as third cornerback depth.  The cornerback market requires teams to pay heavily for the position based on past contracts; and what the market value is today.  Expect a serious makeover at the position through draft and/or free agency.

Disclaimer:  Pro Football Focus grades will be listed to provide some context on the player’s performance in 2017.  This is not an end all metric to determine if the player would be worth signing to the roster.  Team offensive schemes and player use will be a strong factor.

Current Roster Players

Player Name 2018 Cap Charge 2017 PFF Grade 2017 Snap %
Kareem Jackson $9,000,000 52.2 84.82%
Kevin Johnson $3,197,539 32.0 56.52%
Treston Decoud $617,337 N/A 4.96%
Bryce Jones $480,000 N/A 0.00%
Josh Thornton $480,000 N/A 0.00%
Dee Virgin $480,000 N/A 0.00%

Pending Free Agents:  Johnathan Joseph (UFA), Marcus Williams (UFA)

 

Free Agent Market

Player Name Age FA Status 2017 PFF Grade 2017 Snap %
Patrick Robinson 30 Unrestricted 90.5 68.9%
Tramon Williams 34 Unrestricted 86.8 63.1%
Nickell Robey-Coleman 25 Unrestricted 86.3 60.9%
Rashaan Melvin 28 Unrestricted 85.7 51.3%
Travis Carrie 27 Unrestricted 83.3 98.5%
E.J. Gaines 25 Unrestricted 83.0 59.0%
Justin Coleman 24 Restricted 82.1 59.6%
Prince Amukamara 28 Unrestricted 81.9 80.2%
Malcolm Butler 27 Unrestricted 79.4 97.8%
Aaron Colvin 26 Unrestricted 78.8 67.7%
Kyle Fuller 25 Unrestricted 76.8 95.9%
Bashaud Breeland 25 Unrestricted 75.9 77.9%
Trumaine Johnson 27 Unrestricted 74.7 87.0%
Ross Cockrell 26 Unrestricted 74.3 61.6%
Terrance Mitchell 25 Unrestricted 57.7 64.0%

Top Market Contract:  Josh Norman (Washington) 5 years/$75.0m/$15.0m per year/$36.5m guaranteed.

Comments:

Malcolm Butler appears to be the top choice for all-pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.  Butler will be able to test the free agent market next month as it appears the relationship between him and New England is all but gone.  Butler was notably benched during the Superbowl and was vocal about this lack of playing time after the game.  This bad situation coming off the heels of reportedly having a long term contract worked with New Orleans last offseason as part of a trade with Brandon Cooks, but New England ended up only trading a draft selection to New Orleans.  Butler has been an quality cornerback the last 4 years with New England with PFF grades of 76 or higher.  Butler has been durable posting a snap count percentage over 97% for the 2017 season.  Butler did have 2 interceptions in 2017 but overall 2017 was a down year compared to Butler’s 2015 & 2016 performance.  Butler could command a 4 year contract worth over $55 million with $25 million in guarantees.  Butler will likely be looking to top A.J. Bouye’s deal from 2017.

Kyle Fuller is a young quality cornerback who has turned it on in Chicago the past two seasons.  Given Chicago’s ability to retain Vic Fangio as Defensive Coordinator, it would be surprising to see Fuller sign elsewhere.  Chicago also invested a 1st round draft selection on Fuller in 2014.  Fuller has a slight height advantage of a player like Malcolm Butler standing at 6’0.  Butler was able to pull in 2 interceptions during the 2017 season.  Keep an eye on Fuller but the expectation is he will remain with Chicago.

Prince Amukamara played opposite of Kyle Fuller and is more likely to see the free agent market this offseason.  Amukamara turns 29 this summer, the free agent market may not want to invest too heavily based on age alone.  Amukamara has had a productive career posting PFF grades of 75 or higher since 2012.  Amukamara spent the majority of his career with the New York Giants before signing back to back 1 year contracts with Jacksonville & Chicago.  Amukamara could be a potential short term replacement for Johnathan Joseph on a 2 year $15 million deal with the first year guaranteed.

Rashaan Melvin is 28 years old and had been on 5 different rosters before finding his place Indianapolis.  Melvin was a very good signing by Chris Ballard, especially since Melvin was playing for the minimum salary amount.  Melvin could be a potential bargain signing costing no more than $3 – $4 million per season with a small guarantee.

Aaron Colvin is another potential free agent within the division out of Jacksonville.  Colvin has been overshadowed by the outstanding performances of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye; and could be looking to find a starting spot on another roster.  Colvin was drafted by Jacksonville in the 4th round in 2014, and has posted PFF grades of 73 or higher since 2014.  One major red flag will be the 4 game PED suspension Colvin received in 2016.

Patrick Robinson finished the 2017 season as the 6th highest graded cornerback by PFF with a grade of 90.5.  Robinson was a 2nd round draft pick in 2010, but will turn 31 when the regular season starts.  Robinson had a poor season in 2016 with Indianapolis after spending time with the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Chargers.  Robinson could be a potential short term investment at the slot corner position.  Robinson played 628 snaps at the slot position this past season with Philadelphia.  Robinson is a journey man player that found success in Philadelphia; and may not be viewed  as a top tier talent despite his 2017 performance.

Trumaine Johnson will likely command a contract near or at the top of the market after playing two seasons on the franchise tag in Los Angeles.  It it difficult to determine if Los Angeles will be able to sign Johnson to a contract prior to free agency, but at this point it seems Johnson’s camp would rather wait to maximize all potential earnings.  Johnson was a third round draft selection in 2012 and has posted excellent PFF grades the past 3 seasons.  Johnson is a big body outside cornerback and has the height to play with the big time receivers.  Expect Johnson to target a contract near or above the $15 million per year average set by Josh Norman.

Two more options if the Texans are not looking to spend top dollar on another cornerback would be to look at Terrance Mitchell or Bashaud Breeland.  Both would command a middle tier contract at around $6 – $8 million per year.  Reportedly David Amerson met with the Houston Texans today after he was recently released from the Oakland Raiders.  Amerson has ties to new Texans’ assistant defensive coach John Pagano from Oakland.  Another veteran option that was mentioned in the news today is Vontae Davis from Indianapolis.  Davis was released in 2017 from Indianapolis after spending 5 seasons with the organization.  Davis turns 30 in May but could offer a 2 year solution if the team is unable to resign Johnathan Joseph.

Final Comments

This concludes the free agent preview for 2018.  The Texans have plenty of 2018 cap dollars to sign a few quality free agents.  Unfortunately there are a number of teams with large amounts of cap space in addition to the Texans.  Always keep in mind that free agency spending requires the team to overspend for most players.  That is the nature of the business.  However the organization does have an opportunity to sign an offensive lineman (or two) and possibly two defensive backs.  It will be interesting to see how the Texans navigate this offseason with the lack of a 1st or 2nd round draft pick.

With free agency right around the corner we will break down any big contracts signed by the Houston Texans.  Following the first couple of waves in free agency, we will present our contract projections for Jadaveon Clowney & Bernardrick McKinney.

-Troy

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