Trying to Make Sense of the Fact That Logan Ryan Remains Unsigned
Is there such a thing as a system cornerback?
And if so, is that why Logan Ryan remains unsigned nearly two weeks since NFL teams were allowed to negotiate with free agents?
We all know that the system quarterback is real. There absolutely are ‘square peg’ guys who do not match up well with ‘round hole’ schemes and vice versa. Take the two biggest names remaining on the free agent market, Cam Newton and Jameis Winston. Each has eye-popping physical gifts but decidedly different styles that limit their options. It is critical that they find the right fit in order to successfully restart their careers.
There is no doubt that Ryan was simpatico with what the Tennessee Titans did on defense the past two seasons under former coordinator Dean Pees. His timing and speed made him an effective blitzer. His physicality made him one of the team’s leading tacklers. His coverage skills produced four interceptions, one short of his career-high, in 2019.
Here’s the thing, though. Pees’ defense was one of the most deep and diverse in the game. He talked about it when cornerback Tramaine Brock was added late last season – regardless of what a guy does well, there is something in Pees’ scheme to accommodate it.
Ryan’s production over the last two years – 205 tackles, eight and half sacks, 27 passes defensed, four interceptions and four forced fumbles – was not the result of a playbook that suited his strengths. It was because he was one guy who was able to perform regardless of what was asked from game to game or even play to play. Note that he was on the field for 99 percent of the Titans’ defensive snaps in 2019.
So, that can’t be why he remains unsigned.
It can’t be intangibles either.
Ryan has been to the postseason six times in his seven-year NFL career and was a part of two Super Bowl champions in New England (2014, 2016). That’s not to say he is a front-runner who is only willing to go to a team with championship aspirations. When he signed in Tennessee three years ago, he joined a franchise that was eight years removed from its last postseason appearance and 13 years from its last playoff victory. He is a guy willing to take a leap of faith.
He also is willing to do his part. Ryan was a consistent voice of reason and experience whose influence on the Titans extended well beyond his position group or even the defense. He wasn’t a captain, but he most assuredly was a team leader. Who wouldn’t want a guy like that?
For certain, it’s not the position he plays. If there is one thing that is true about today’s NFL it is that you never can have enough good cornerbacks. Spread offenses and rules that favor the forward pass have teams dropping back and letting it fly more than ever. Thus, no one can ever say that there is no need for Ryan, or somebody like him.
One thing possibly working against him is that he is not the only veteran cornerback still on the market. Prince Amukamara, Bashaud Breeland and Darqueze Dennard are among the others still available for teams to consider. Each has virtues he will bring to a franchise once they get the opportunity.
Chances are, there are teams waiting for one or all of those guys to drop their price tags before they make a move.
Plus, the 2020 NFL Draft looks to have more than the usual number of capable cornerbacks, which offers teams the chance to aim for younger, cheaper talent at the position.
Therein lies the most likely explanation for his extended stay on the free agent market. Ryan is well-versed in the business side of the NFL. He is active in the NFL Players Association and stays up to date on league and team revenues and how and why a portion of that money goes to player salaries.
In short: Logan Ryan knows what he is worth. It is not a guess. It is not a wish. And he is not the kind who will settle for less.
Ryan made $10 million per season each of the last three years. He had the best season of his career in 2019. In fact, his combination of sack and interception totals was something no cornerback in recent memory has accomplished.
He believes he is worth more now than he was in 2017. And – apparently – he is willing to wait to make sure he gets it.