Is James Bradberry a Realistic Replacement for Darius Slay?
It is well known the Lions are in need of cornerback help.
One unrestricted free agent that could bring some stability to the Lions corner group is Carolina Panthers cornerback James Bradberry.
There is a possibility that Bradberry could be franchise tagged in order for Carolina to retain his services for at least another year.
That decision should be made within the next couple of weeks.
Given the franchise tag for a corner is set around $15 million, it would be on the higher end for what most teams would presumably be willing to pay.
In all likelihood, Bradberry should see a contract in the $10-$12 million per year range, with his best football ahead of him.
A little history on Bradberry:
After the Panthers rescinded the franchise tag on CB Josh Norman -- effectively making him a free agent in 2016 -- Bradberry was subsequently drafted out of Samford in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
At the combine -- standing at 6-foot-1 and 212 pounds -- Bradberry measured with arms the size of an offensive lineman (33 3/8 inches) and ran a 4.50-second 40-yard dash.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn really likes defensive backs with length.
For comparison's sake, safety Tracy Walker is known for his vines attached to his shoulders, and his arms only measure at a 1/8 of an inch longer than Bradberry's.
In terms of durability and production, the 26-year-old has started all 60 of the games he has played in -- only missing a total of four games in his four-year career.
He has amassed eight interceptions and 47 passes defensed during his time in the NFL.
The production from him -- a younger corner at a position with a notoriously steep learning curve -- is already there.
His Pro Football Focus grade wasn't very kind to him in 2019, with a 64.5 coverage grade.
But, when you dive deeper into it and realize he was responsible for guarding during the season, his grade is put into a better perspective.
He shadowed and traveled with Mike Evans twice, Julio Jones twice and Mike Thomas twice, among others.
In those six games, he allowed only 288 total yards.
On the season, Bradberry allowed a passer rating of 78.9 -- which would have been the best rating against of all the Lions' corners in 2019.
Now, as far as a scheme fit, Bradberry played plenty of zone defense with the Panthers, and the Lions are a heavy man-coverage team.
He does his best work when keeping the ball in front of him and with his eyes reading the quarterback.
That's not to say Bradberry can't succeed in man-press coverage, though.
He has all the tools necessary to jam receivers and knock them off their routes.
It's unclear what exactly the Lions have planned in free agency, considering all of the holes on their roster.
However, if available, Bradberry should be atop their list as a cheaper alternative to a Darius Slay extension.