Cornerback became a huge position of need for the New Orleans Saints when they released veteran Janoris Jenkins for salary cap reasons. The team still has three-time Pro Bowler Marshon Lattimore, but Lattimore was arrested over the weekend on a charge of receiving stolen property. Those charges are unlikely to affect Lattimore's status for the 2021 season. It could result in a suspension for few games from the league and certainly isn't a good look for the star defensive back entering a contract year.
Behind Lattimore, there is cause for concern at the position. The Saints re-signed veteran defensive back P. J. Williams, who has versatility and is an adequate off-ball defender but is a liability in man coverage. Veteran CB Patrick Robinson may also return. Robinson is a suitable fourth corner but is heavily targeted with great success when in the lineup.
Most expect the Saints to select a cornerback with an early-round draft choice. There are several potential stars available from what looks like a deep draft class at the position. Surprisingly, there are still several cornerbacks available on the free-agent market. While the Saints should still draft at least one corner, they could still bring in one of these proven veterans on a 1-year deal to bolster their defensive backfield.
The 29-Yr old Bouye was having a bounce-back season in Denver after a couple of rough campaigns in Jacksonville. He developed into a standout corner during his first four seasons with the Houston Texans before signing a big free-agent contract with the Jaguars in 2017.
After earning a Pro Bowl berth with six interceptions during his first season with Jacksonville, Bouye's production decreased over the next two years. Bouye broke up six passes and allowed a 65.7% completion percentage when targeted in seven games with Denver in 2020. He has 14 interceptions in his seven-year career.
The 6’0” 191-Lb Bouye is a physical defender who excels best in off-ball coverage. He has excellent ball skills but has struggled with shifty receivers in press coverage.
Breeland has been one of the most consistent defensive backs for the two-time AFC champion Chiefs after four solid seasons with Washington. He has 14 career interceptions in his seven seasons, including four picks and 17 passes broken up in two years with Kansas City.
He isn't the most physical tackler, but won't shy away from contact. Breeland has the versatility to be equally effective in man or off-ball coverage.
Breeland is a capable outside corner that’s allowed less than 52% completion percentage when targeted in each of the last three seasons. At 5'11” 195-Lbs., the 29-Yr old Breeland is a slick man-to-man defender with valuable championship experience.
A teammate of Marshon Lattimore at Ohio State, Conley was the 24th overall pick in the 1st round of the 2017 draft by the Raiders. He played in just two games as a rookie and intercepted 3 passes in 2018, but struggled with consistency.
Conley was traded to the Houston Texans midway through the 2019 season. He looked like he had revitalized his career, breaking up 11 passes in just seven games with Houston and allowing less than 53% completion percentage when targeted. An ankle injury sidelined him for the 2020 season.
The 6’0” 190-Lb Conley, who turns 26 in June, has the outstanding athletic ability and excels in press coverage. He could be added on an inexpensive one-year ‘‘prove it'' contract while he looks to jump-start his career.
The market for Dunbar, who turns 29 in July, is heating up after silence early in free agency. The six-year veteran was credited with 35 passes broken up and had nine interceptions during his first five years with Washington before joining Seattle last season.
Dunbar appeared in just six games for the Seahawks last season, recording an interception and allowing a 64% completion percentage. He has missed 25 of the last 49 games over the last three seasons because of injury or suspension.
Dunbar is a physical off-ball defender with terrific size at 6’2” 202-Lbs. He is capable in man-to-man coverage against bigger, more physical receivers, but small shifty wideouts can give him problems.
Another former first-round choice by the Raiders, Hayden was the 12th overall selection in 2013 out of the University of Houston. He had 3 interceptions and 26 passes broken up in four years with Oakland before joining Detroit for one season, then the Jaguars for the last three campaigns.
The 5'11 190-Lb Hayden, who turns 30 in June, has struggled statistically in recent years. He has just one interception and 11 passes defended in three years with Jacksonville. Injuries limited him to five games last season, where he allowed over 88% completion percentage.
Hayden is an aggressive corner who plays best when used in press coverage. His ball skills aren't great, but he has the athletic ability to stay with most wideouts anywhere on the field.
After entering the NFL as a lightly regarded 6th round draft pick in 2009 by the Tennessee Titans, McCourty became one of the league's most respected defensive backs. He had 13 interceptions, 73 passes broken up and forced 6 fumbles in eight years with the Titans.
McCourty toiled in Cleveland for a year after leaving Tennessee before joining the New England Patriots, where he played for the last three years and contributed to a Super Bowl championship. The 11-Yr year veteran had only two of his 18 career interceptions with the Patriots but has broken up passes in three seasons.
McCourty, who will be 34 before the season opener, is potentially on the downside of his decorated career. He surrendered almost 65% completion percentage when targeted in 2020 and didn't record an interception for the first time since 2015. He no longer has top-notch man-to-man skills but has outstanding instincts off the ball.
A six-time Pro Bowler, Sherman was linked to the Saints earlier in free agency, but those rumors have cooled recently. At one time considered one of the league's top corners, Sherman has 36 interceptions, 11 fumbles either forced or recovered, 115 passes broken up, and 3 defensive touchdowns in his ten-year career.
After playing for current New Orleans assistant coach Kris Richard for seven years in Seattle, Sherman took his talents to San Francisco, where he has started the last three years. Sherman was limited to just five games because of injury last season but made the Pro Bowl as recently as 2019.
Sherman's man coverage skills and athleticism may have eroded a bit. His instincts and ball-hawking ability could still make him a suitable number 2 complement to Lattimore for a season.