With the end of the 2016 NFL Season having wrapped up on February 5th, with the New England Patriots winning Super Bowl LI, we can now begin to prep for the 2017 Season. Free agency is a big part of the offseason. Here at Inscriber Magazine we are dedicated to bringing you the best offseason coverage around. Today we will continue our position by position look at the top free agents available. Next position we will cover in our series; Cornerback.
Malcolm Butler (RFA) – New England Patriots
From a undrafted rookie out of West Alabama in 2014 to one of the top starting cornerbacks in the NFL today, Malcolm Butler’s journey with the Patriots is one to be admired. Prior to Super Bowl XLIX, Butler was an unknown to many but now is regarded as the man with the game-sealing interception against Seattle to win the Patriot’s 4th Super Bowl. Ever since then, he has been a cornerstone for the Patriots secondary and after totaling 6 interceptions and 31 pass deflections, Butler deserves a huge contract and should be that cover guy that teams do not want to target. As a young corner being only 27, he should be locked up long term in the offseason. A guy like Butler could make Logan Ryan expendable depending on if the Patriots want to pay him. As a restricted free agent, he can be offered an offer sheet but the Patriots should match any offer in the off-season with a great deal of cap room in 2017.
A.J. Bouye (UFA) – Houston Texans
In 2016, A.J. Bouye, a relatively unknown cornerback out of South Florida who was also undrafted in 2013, had an impressive season in 2016 and should get paid by the Texans who have found their #1 cornerback. While he only has 1 interception in 2016, he ended up with 16 pass deflections. If Bouye is not locked up, many teams would be ecstatic to get him that will be able to afford him. While it could be a 1-year wonder, he was one of the top cornerbacks in 2016 and took advantage of the opportunity to start earlier in 2016 and made the most out of it by most likely getting paid like a franchise cornerback as he is only 26.
Logan Ryan (UFA) – New England Patriots
As the #2 cornerback in New England and former Rutgers 3rd round pick in 2013, Logan Ryan could be a solid starter for another team if the Patriots choose to let him go in free agency. But due to the Patriots cap space, they can afford him if Ryan wants to stay around. Ryan was never the top cornerback but he was always solid in New England in coverage but known for his run support and versatility. At age 26, he could improve and develop into a #1 cornerback for a team that needs a #1 or #2 cornerback. Ryan could walk due to the Patriots wanting to pay Malcolm Butler and wanting a bigger contract.
Trumaine Johnson (UFA) – Los Angeles Rams
In 2016, the Rams made the decision to let go Janoris Jenkins and franchise tagged Trumaine Johnson and now have a decision on whether to pay him or let him walk in free agency. Les Snead said that Wade Phillips will play a large part in retaining Johnson long term. The 2012 3rd round pick out of Montana, Johnson was considered a good cornerback prospect and now could leave for a bigger contract due to the Rams cap salary. Johnson can be a #1 or #2 cornerback for a team that needs a starting cornerback. Another option if they really want him to stay is to franchise tag him again. Phillips likes longer and physical corners but Johnson may be out to another team looking for a bigger contract.
Stephon Gilmore (UFA) – Buffalo Bills
Rumor has it that the highly touted 2012 1st round cornerback Stephon Gilmore is seeking a top 5 cornerback contract. It seems he will not be retained by the Bills as he struggled in coverage in 2016 but in his career, had 14 interceptions and 62 pass deflections in 5 years. With the Bills having a limited salary cap, Gilmore will most likely be out the door once free agency starts. The Bills could resign him or franchise tag him but it would be wise for the Bills to move on. During the pro bowl, Gilmore expressed his opinions on free agency and the Bills and seemed like he does not want to be back in Buffalo. At age 26, Gilmore can still play better with another team that has the cap room and needs a starting cornerback would be a great fit with Gilmore.
Prince Amukamara (UFA) – Jacksonville Jaguars
Morris Claiborne (UFA) – Dallas Cowboys
Dre Kirkpatrick (UFA) – Cincinnati Bengals
Ross Cockrell (UFA) – Pittsburgh Steelers
Marcus Williams (RFA) – New York Jets