Published On: Mon, Mar 5th, 2018

Top 10 free-agent defensive backs

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NFL free agency begins March 14 – the first day of the new league year. Here are our lists of the top five free-agent cornerbacks and safeties.

Top Free Agents

Cornerbacks

5. Aaron Colvin


2017 Team: Jaguars
2017 Salary: $1,797,000
2017 Stats: 45 tackles, 5 pass deflections

Colvin played the nickel role in Jacksonville’s top-ranked pass defense in between Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye last season, racking up good experience as part of a successful unit. It seems likely he re-signs with the team as the franchise makes another run at their first Super Bowl. If he decides to hit the market, Colvin will be one of the best options for a team looking for a dependable cover man in the slot.

4. Patrick Robinson


2017 Team: Eagles
2017 Salary: $775,000
2017 Stats: 47 tackles, 18 pass deflections, 4 INTs, 1 sack

Robinson had one of the best value contracts in the league in 2017. After inconsistent seasons with the Saints, Colts, and Chargers, Robinson accepted a veteran minimum deal to join the Eagles, which resulted in the best performance of his career en route to a Super Bowl win. Given the small sample size of his success, it may be risky to offer Robinson big money, though there aren’t many other options.

3. E.J. Gaines


2017 Team: Bills
2017 Salary: $1,797,000
2017 Stats: 59 tackles, 9 pass deflections, 1 INT, 3 forced fumbles

Gaines was a pleasant surprise for the Bills after he was acquired in the preseason as part of the Sammy Watkins deal. The 26-year-old can play on the outside or in the slot for any team looking to add a complimentary piece. He shouldn’t cost a pretty penny as he enters the prime of his career.

2. Trumaine Johnson


2017 Team: Rams
2017 Salary: $16,742,400
2017 Stats: 65 tackles, 14 pass deflections, 2 INTs, 1 forced fumble

Johnson has not been the best cornerback in the league the last two years, but he’s been paid like it. Coming off back-to-back franchise-tagged seasons, Johnson has earned over $30.7 million with the Rams, who contest they can still keep the 28-year-old after acquiring Marcus Peters. Johnson will have to take somewhat of a pay cut, but his ideal size and reputation as a reliable starter could earn him one of the largest contracts among free-agent defenders.

1. Malcolm Butler


2017 Team: Patriots
2017 Salary: $3,910,000
2017 Stats: 60 tackles, 12 pass deflections, 2 INTs, 3 forced fumbles, 1 sack

The writing for Butler’s departure from New England has been on the wall for about a year, but after benching him during the Super Bowl, the feelings between the two sides were quite public. Butler has arguably been the Patriots’ best defender and among the best corners in the NFL the last three seasons. At 27, he’s just entering his prime playing years and will be one of the league’s top-paid defensive backs by the end of free agency.

Safeties

5. Eric Reid


2017 Team: 49ers
2017 Salary: $5,676,000
2017 Stats: 67 tackles, 4 pass deflections, 2 INTs

Reid’s reputation may be the hardest to overlook for prospective teams, as he was the first player to join Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the national anthem in 2016. Hopefully, NFL teams have realized their mistake, but Reid could fall victim to the Kaepernick effect and be blackballed. The other element to overcome is his intense physical playing style. Reid hits as hard as any safety, but racking up so many hits over his five-year career might be catching up to him health wise.

4. Kenny Vaccaro


2017 Team: Saints
2017 Salary: $5,676,000
2017 Stats: 60 tackles, 7 pass deflections, 3 INTs, 1.5 sacks

Vaccaro had perhaps his best career year as part of New Orleans’ resurging defense, but with the Saints drafting safeties in the second round two years in a row, the decision for him to go may have been made a while ago. Nonetheless, Vaccaro, 27, had success dropping down to slot corner as well as playing his traditional safety spot in 2017, and can do the same for a new team hoping to add a hard-hitting veteran to their secondary.

3. Ricardo Allen (RFA)


2017 Team: Falcons
2017 Salary: $615,000
2017 Stats: 54 tackles, 2 pass deflections, 1 INT

If Allen wants to remain a member of the Falcons, he will likely be able to come to an agreement with his current club. But if the 26-year-old wants a big paycheque, there will be a market. Allen is an every-down safety who had often been forgotten between Keanu Neal and Desmond Trufant – but in a good way, as he was rarely burnt for big plays.

2. Lamarcus Joyner


2017 Team: Rams
2017 Salary: $1,105,934
2017 Stats: 49 tackles, 9 pass deflections, 3 INTs, 1 forced fumbles

Joyner almost quit football early in his pro career after getting little playing time at safety. He had to earn his way playing slot corner in his first three years before making the full-time move to safety in 2017. His experience has helped shape the former second-round pick into a well-rounded defender. Joyner may end up getting the $10.9-million franchise tag from the Rams, which only speaks to the tremendous value he would have on the open market.

1. Morgan Burnett


2017 Team: Packers
2017 Salary: $4,750,000
2017 Stats: 68 tackles, 3 pass deflections, 1 forced fumble

Alongside Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Burnett has been a part of one of the better safety duos in the NFL over the last three years with the Packers. With Clinton-Dix’s contract expiring after 2018, the Packers may not have enough cap space to spread around both defenders. Burnett will be 30 by the time Clinton-Dix, 25, would be a pending FA so he’ll be the odd man out. As a reliable starter, Burnett’s presence should be in high demand for any team with a young, inconsistent secondary.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)
(Contract numbers courtesy: Spotrac)



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