GREEN BAY, Wis. – Player grades have long been a staple of postseason analysis. Ours are different. So much of building a team is doing it within the constraints of the salary cap. Teams need their big-money players to come up big and some bargain players to outplay their contracts. Thus, our annual grades are done on a salary-cap curve.
Cap: $6,375,000 (29th at position, according to OverTheCap.com)
Season: At 36, Williams was the oldest defensive back in the NFL. Amazingly, he continues to play at a winning level. Playing mostly from the slot but showing the ability to play outside when needed, Williams intercepted two passes and finished third on the team with 11 passes defensed, according to the coaches’ count. He added one forced fumble. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams allowed 40-of-63 (63.5 percent) passing and two touchdowns. Of 81 corners to play 350 coverage snaps, he ranked 22nd with 1.01 yards per coverage snap, according to PFF. By its count, Williams gave up less than 20 receiving yards in eight of 18 games. Sports Info Solutions had him giving up only 21-of-41 passing (51.2 percent). Williams will be a free agent. He is worthy of another contract because of his skill, versatility and mentorship.
Video: Top free-agent cornerbacks
Cap: $2,738,803 (58th at position)
Season: After an all-rookie season in 2018, Alexander was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2019. He recorded a team-high 23 passes defensed, according to the coaches’ count, and intercepted two passes. By the official league stats, he tied for fourth with 17 passes defensed. He added one forced fumble and a unit-best four tackles for losses. Passing judgement on defensive backs is difficult without knowing coverage calls. According to Sports Info Solutions, Alexander was targeted a league-high 101 times. Quarterbacks completed only 48 passes (47.5 percent). SIS charged Alexander with 7.0 yards per target, five touchdowns and two dropped interceptions. According to Pro Football Focus, Alexander allowed 60-of-104 (57.7 percent) passing and five touchdowns. Of 81 corners to play 350 coverage snaps, he ranked 54th with 1.30 yards per coverage snap, according to PFF. Alexander is fearless and supremely confident. He’s good enough to shadow the opponent’s best receiver every week, whether it’s a crafty veteran like Emmanuel Sanders (who Alexander dominated) or a physical freak like Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf (who Alexander faced at times in the playoff game). While he missed 14 tackles, that had nothing to do with desire, tenacity or toughness. He almost never turned down an opportunity to get into the action. One of the unsung plays of the season was Alexander’s hustle tackle of Detroit’s Kenny Golladay on a flea-flicker to start the Week 6 game. Alexander saved a touchdown and the Packers held the Lions to a field goal – a four-point swing that obviously loomed large in Green Bay’s 23-22 victory.
Cap: $1,931,141 (73rd at position)
Season: King finally stayed mostly healthy and turned in a strong season by some standards. He ranked among the league leaders with five interceptions and dropped three others. By the coaches’ count, he was second on the team with 18 passes defensed. By the official league stats, he tied for eighth in the league with 15 passes defensed. According to Pro Football Focus, King allowed 53-of-88 (60.2 percent) passing with four touchdowns. Of 81 corners to play 350 coverage snaps, he ranked last with 1.66 yards per coverage snap, according to PFF. Some of King’s ugly numbers came from the occasional letdowns. He allowed catches of 30-plus yards in seven games. A dismal start in the Week 6 home game against Detroit almost had the Packers get run out of their own building in the first quarter. However, starting with the game at the Giants in Week 13, King strung together a series of strong performances. He missed 13 tackles, according to Sports Info Solutions. He lacks Alexander’s bulldog tenacity. There’s no getting away from the fact former general manager Ted Thompson made a huge blunder in trading out of the first round in 2017 and missing out on T.J. Watt. Still, if King can stay healthy and eradicate the awful play or two that plagued him in several games, the Packers could have a premier cornerback tandem next year.
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With seven of the eight first-place tallies, Arizona is No. 1 in the Composite Power Rankings for the third consecutive week. How about the Packers?
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Cap: $1,421,841 (81st at position)
Season: As a rookie, Jackson started 10 games, played 718 defensive snaps and broke up 13 passes. In 2019, he didn’t break up a single pass, played just 103 defensive snaps and twice was a healthy scratch. If you look hard for a silver lining, he finished sixth on the team with six special-teams tackles. A foot injury sidelined him for two weeks in training camp. “Part of it, too, is just us trying to find a permanent home for him,” defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. “Like, do we want him as an outside corner? He showed a lot of progress this offseason and the beginning of the year playing the nickel for us. That’s probably, ultimately, his best spot, which obviously Tramon’s entrenched there now. But he’s a versatile guy. He want to avoid him becoming the cliché, the jack of all trades master of none. He can play a little safety, he can play a little outside, he can play a little nickel. We want to find that permanent home for him.” Time is running out.
Cap: $538,737 (160th at position)
Season: Hollman played four snaps on defense and 33 snaps on special teams. He was inactive in 12 regular-season games and both playoff games and didn’t contribute anything statistically. Pettine raved about Hollman during the offseason practices and likes his upside, so this grade isn’t indicative of Hollman’s prospects for becoming a fine player.