After weeks of trade speculation that took place for a majority of the offseason the New York Giants released cornerback James Bradberry. It was likely a hard decision for new team administration Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll to let go of their best cornerback. The $10 million in cap space would be relieved by trading or releasing Bradberry to provide the room under the salary cap to sign their rookie class. Here are potential landing spots for James Bradberry.
James Bradberry Background
Following a Pro Bowl level performance during the 2020-21 NFL season, Bradberry regressed this past season. He did not play like the lockdown cornerback he was the year prior. PFF gave Bradberry a 62.8 grade for the 2021-22 season. Bradberry was second on the team in interceptions with four. He also had 47 combined tackles, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries.
It is not often that this caliber of player becomes available at this point of the offseason. Signing Bradberry would give a team one last great opportunity to upgrade what they have in their cornerback room before the season. He could immediately be a trustworthy number one cornerback or elite second cornerback for the team that signs him. They could be landing themselves a Pro Bowl level cornerback at a premium.
Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers were a playoff team a season ago, they had a lot of work to do to their roster in order to be a potential playoff team next season. Pittsburgh’s additions of James Daniels, Myles Jack, Mason Cole, and 2022 first-round pick Kenny Pickett plugged up some major needs on this roster. But the Steelers could have likely done more to improve their secondary which is lacking impact players outside of Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The additions of Levi Wallace and Damontae Kazee along with the retention of defensive backs Akhello Witherspoon and Terrell Edmunds remove any major voids on this secondary. Wallace and Witherspoon are solid cornerbacks but are more suited to be the second and third cornerbacks on the depth chart. None of which should be trusted to limit the production of the talented receivers in the AFC North.
James Bradberry would the cherry on top for an extremely talented defense that features Pro Bowl-caliber players at every level. He would be capable of making lives for Ja’Mar Chase, Tee Higgins, and Amari Cooper more difficult when they play the Steelers twice a year. A secondary made up of Bradberry, Witherspoon, Wallace, Fitzpatrick, Edmunds, and Kazee would not only be trusted to limit large plays from opposing receivers but could be capable of forcing turnovers at a high rate.
Bradberry could be interested in joining a stable organization like the Steelers who have one of (if not) the best defensive head coaches in the league in Mike Tomlin. His addition would patch up the last major hole along this defense which would afford this young offense the ability to grow and not worry about competing in shootouts often next season.
Las Vegas Raiders
After a remarkable season that resulted in a Raiders team drowning in adversity making the playoffs, Las Vegas has a new administration in place to reshape this team and take it to the next level. The Raiders’ offseason has been shaped by hiring new head coach Josh McDaniels, new general manager Dave Ziegler, and trading for All-Pro wide receiver.
The acquisition of Davante Adams has taken a lot of attention from the additions Las Vegas made on the defensive side of the ball to help this unit play at a high enough level to compete with their high-powered offense. Las Vegas signed Pro Bowl pass rusher Chandler Jones, former Bears defensive lineman Bilal Nichols, former Bills defensive lineman Vernon Butler, and former Titans linebacker Jayon Brown who are expected to start for their defense. They also traded former Pro Bowl pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue for 2019 second-round pick cornerback Rock-Ya Sin. The Raiders also brought in former Ravens cornerback Anthony Averett, former Chargers pass rusher Kyler Fackrell and former Falcons safety Duron Harmon as solid depth pieces for this defense.
New defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has been given many assets to shape this defense in the way he feels is best. Even though he added to his cornerback group by adding Averett and Ya-Sim, Graham could position himself to bring in a player who could be the best cornerback on his roster in James Bradberry. He has a relationship with Graham who was his defensive coordinator during the past two years with the New York Giants. Bradberry had his best season in the 2020-21 season during his first season in Graham’s defense.
This secondary would become one of the deepest units in the league if they added Bradberry to the players they already have on the roster. He would likely be their number one cornerback while Ya-Sin, Trayvon Mullen, and Anthony Averett competed for reps opposite Bradberry. Second-year cornerback Nate Hobbs will likely remain the team’s nickel-back after his outstanding play last season. Then in the backend, Trevon Moehrig, Johnathan Abram, and Tyree Gillespie would play a majority of the team’s safety snaps.
In a loaded AFC West that is expected to be extremely pass-heavy, adding Bradberry to this secondary would help the Raiders limit the production of the high-power offenses of the Chiefs, Broncos, and Chargers.
New England Patriots
This offseason has not been a great one for the New England Patriots when it is described on paper. They began the offseason by losing one of their top executives and offensive coordinator in Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels to the Las Vegas Raiders. Then the Patriots let J.C. Jackson and Dont’a Hightower walk in free agency. New England also shockingly traded starting guard Shaq Mason to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a fifth-round pick. Following a rough free agency period, New England didn’t do themselves a lot of favors when they draft the consensus worst draft class of the 2022 NFL Draft that featured Cole Strange and Tyquan Thornton being selected in the first two rounds.
New England has a competent group of starting cornerbacks in Jalen Mills, Malcolm Butler, and Jonathan Jones. As it currently stands Mills and Butler are slated to be the starting outside cornerbacks for New England. This isn’t very inspiring considering they have gotten elite production out of Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson out of the past few seasons before both made their way off the team within the past calendar year. Mills should be a starting second or third cornerback for the defense he plays for. While Butler retired last season during Cardinals training camp so it is unclear what caliber of player the Patriots are getting.
One way to help recover this offseason would be to make a splash signing like James Bradberry. He showed during his time in Patrick Graham’s defense in New York that he could excel in a Patriots-style defense. Bradberry could be the next great cornerback to play for Belichick’s Patriots. He would join a list of players including Ty Law, Asante Samuel, Aqib Talib, Darrelle Revis, Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler (first stint), and J.C, Jackson. Belichick has been able to elevate the play of veteran free-agent additions at the cornerback position during his time in New England.
It is extremely unlikely that Bradberry develops into a Defensive Player of the Year candidate as a member of this defense. However, he could be a vital addition for a team that needs to add a spark this offseason to remain afloat in the playoff picture.
The Cincinnati Bengals’ Cinderella story fell just short in the Super Bowl last season. However, they have decided to follow up their breakout performance with an outstanding offseason to close up the few major voids on this roster. They focused a lot of their resources in free agency on their exposable defensive line. Cincinnati signed Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, and La’El Collins all to start for their offensive line next season. This allowed the Bengals to focus on retooling their secondary during the 2022 NFL Draft which was viewed as their next largest weakness after the offensive line.
Last offseason Cincinnati received a lot of criticism for allowing William Jackson III to walk in free agency. However, they used their resources to bring in former Cowboys cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and former Steelers cornerback Mike Hilton. Awuzie was Cincinnati’s best cornerback this past season exceeding his best year with the Cowboys. While Hilton continued to play like one of the league’s best nickel cornerbacks. Since Trae Waynes dealt with injuries last season former first-round pick Eli Apple was thrust into a starting role for the Bengals and more times than not was the most exposable piece of their secondary.
Now that Cincinnati cut Waynes, and retained Apple, it appears that Apple will be the favorite to start for the Bengals again next season. However, the Bengals decided to take versatile defensive back Daxton Hill and cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt in the first two rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft. Both are expected to play major roles for this secondary next season and beyond.
Even though the Bengals made investments early in the draft on players to help their secondary they shouldn’t fray away from adding a cornerback the likes of Bradberry if he is interested in joining the team. This Bengals team was a quarter away from being named Super Bowl champions and will be expected to have a deep playoff run next year as well. Adding a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback to this defense could keep this team in the title picture.
The AFC North will be a lot more competitive next season with a new-look Browns offense, healthy Ravens offense, and younger Steelers offense. Cincinnati could ensure they remain the favorites to come out of this division by getting a proven commodity to address the biggest remaining need on this roster.
Despite making many blockbuster trades and free-agent additions to this roster, the Philadelphia Eagles aren’t the favorites to win the NFC East next season. The Eagles have added notable players like Haason Reddick, A.J. Brown, and 2022 first-round pick Jordan Davis to a roster that was able to make the playoffs last season.
An area of this roster that could hold this team back is their secondary. Philadelphia was unable to resign and hasn’t brought in someone to replace underrated starting cornerback Steven Nelson. Currently, promising former fourth-round pick Zach McPherson They also let Rodney McLeod walk in free agency and are slated to start K’Von Wallace at safety. A vote in confidence for young players like McPherson and Wallace could be great for their development long-term but could result in this team having a major need through this upcoming season and going into the next offseason.
Last offseason the Eagles managed to sign Steven Nelson to a one-year deal late in the offseason despite playing well with the Steelers before landing with the Eagles. They can make another outstanding signing this offseason at the cornerback position by pairing James Bradberry with Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay. Even though both Slay and Bradberry are older cornerbacks, both are Pro Bowl-caliber players who have a case to be the best cornerback tandem in the league if paired together.
Bradberry could be interested in returning to the NFC East after his prior team, the New York Giants, kicked him to the curb. Joining the Eagles could allow Bradberry to stick it to his former team twice a year and join a team capable of being a threat late next season.
Los Angeles Rams
The Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams are always a threat to add a star player that hits the market. Last year the Rams added Matthew Stafford, Von Miller, and Odell Beckham Jr. to push them over the top to a Super Bowl. This past offseason Los Angeles has already added Bobby Wagner and Allen Robinson in free agency. This could be the last opportunity for the Rams to add a star player to their roster this offseason.
Los Angeles arguably has the best cornerback in the league in Jalen Ramsey. However, outside of Ramsey, the common NFL fan may not be able to name a starting cornerback for the Rams. Now that Darious Williams is in Jacksonville, David Long and Robert Rochell are the next men up on Los Angeles’ depth chart at cornerback.
Ramsey has begged his team to bring in another Pro Bowl level cornerback to pair with him similar to how he paired with A.J. Bouye in Jacksonville. However, Los Angeles has not been successful in doing such mostly because their defense doesn’t call for elite play from their cornerbacks. If Bradberry is interested in possibly winning a championship next season he could look to take a discount to land with the Rams. Playing Bradberry on the outside should allow the Rams to comfortably leave Jalen Ramsey in the slot taking away anything in the middle of the field. This could be the perfect destination for Bradberry to play for a season to possibly earn himself a massive contract from a new team the following offseason.
Especially since signing Bradberry won’t count against the compensatory pick formula for the Rams, they should have a full course press on Bradberry trying to bring him onto their loaded defense that needs more help at the cornerback position.
The tone of Arizona’s offseason has been to make Kyler Murray happy. Arizona ignored the openings that emerged on their defense to stack this offense with the weapons to keep Murray content. After retaining older players Zach Ertz and James Conner on long-term deals, the Cardinals traded their first-round pick for Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and then took tight end Trey McBride in the second round.
This not only left a massive gap left by Chandler Jones at pass rusher but also left a year-long void left by Patrick Peterson a year ago at cornerback. Arizona has not addressed the outside cornerback position since Peterson left in the 2021 offseason. The Cardinals’ best cornerback Byron Murphy is a liability at outside cornerback due to his size and plays at his best in the nickel. An underrated signing they did make was 2020 first-round pick Jeff Gladney who missed the 2021-22 season after being cut by the Vikings for accusations made against him off the field.
The Cardinals can finally address a need on the defensive side of the ball by adding Bradberry to their secondary. He would be a major upgrade over Gladney and 2021 fourth-round pick Marco Wilson who are their slated starters on the outside. The Cardinals’ general manager may have to bargain-buy to fill the remaining needs on their defense. Signing Bradberry would be an outstanding move to fill a major need on this defense that could hold this team back.
If Arizona doesn’t add one or more defensive playmakers like Bradberry the rest of the offseason, this team could be forced to play in shootouts every single week. Teams can’t win consistently when they are giving up 28+ points a game like the Cardinals may do if they don’t make a signing like this.
The Washington Commanders fell back to mediocrity after making the playoffs a season ago. A major reason for this team’s fall off was the regression of their elite defense despite making major additions like William Jackson III and 2021 first-round pick Jamin Davis.
Their offense also regressed slightly which was a huge reason for this team’s failures considering their offense wasn’t great, to begin with, the year before. Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick only played at the beginning of the first game of the season before missing the rest of the year due to a hip injury. Now, this offense should improve next season after the additions of Carson Wentz and Jahan Dotson. On top of that getting Antonio Gibson, Logan Thomas, and Curtis Samuel back healthy should help this offset move the ball down the field.
A need that the Commanders failed to address at some point this offseason was cornerback. William Jackson did not play great in his first year and Washington lacks a solid second cornerback. They currently have 2021 third-round pick Benjamin St-Juste starting on the outside with veteran Kendall Fuller in the slot. Commander’s head coach Ron Rivera could be interested in reuniting with James Bradberry to take over St.Juste’s slot as the second outside cornerback for this defense.
Rivera’s Carolina Panthers drafted Bradberry in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He then developed Bradberry into a number one cornerback that earned himself a three-year $15 million deal in free agency. It may be better for Bradberry to play in a defensive scheme he is extremely familiar with in Rivera’s in Washington. There is a chance that Bradberry could surpass Jackson as the team’s best cornerback.
If Bradberry was to sign with the Commanders it would give them one of the best veteran cornerback trios in the league with Jackson III and Fuller. It would also be another opportunity to play the Giants twice a year. Washington could be a sneaky attractive destination for Bradberry because of the opportunity to reunite with Ron Rivera and because this team could sneakily win the division if their improvements to the roster make an impact right away.
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