No position has a greater supply and demand than cornerback this year. It’s a premium position, which is why the Los Angeles Rams felt compelled to spend $16.7 million on a franchise tag for Trumaine Johnson, a mid-level starter. According to Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, cornerback is one of three positions that he believes traditionally are difficult to address in free agency.
“The ones that are hard to find: Left tackle, cornerback, quarterback,” Keim said. “Those positions are so hard to find that when you are allocating your money and looking at the big picture, how are you going to divide that money up? If you are going to spend excess money, to me, you spend it on the guys that are hard to find.”
Keim needs cornerbacks and has a solid crop of players to choose from. Top-shelf talent, such as Stephon Gilmore and A.J. Bouye will get huge bucks, but there is a healthy second tier of starters, too, including Dre Kirkpatrick, Logan Ryan, Prince Amukamura and Morris Claiborne, among others. Arizona Coach Bruce Arians indicated that Cardinals cornerback Marcus Cooper was set for a big payday, a sign that even lesser names will get money. Keim noted that versatility in today’s NFL, where you need hybrid players to match up inside and outside, gives players extra value. That’s one reason why we ranked Packers jack-of-all-trades defensive back Micah Hyde so high in our Top 101 Free Agents list.
Teams feel more comfortable paying cornerbacks, in part, because they transcend scheme easily. Arians believes that running backs and defensive backs face the smoothest transition from college to the pros because their roles are similar at both levels. The quick success of young running backs certainly won’t help this year’s older runners get paid in the open market.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day among quarterbacks was Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight. Scouts knew he was athletic and therefore the fact that he led all passers in the 40-yard dash (4.54), vertical jump (35.5 inches) and broad jump (10-foot-5) was not surprising.
Knight also threw the ball better than expected. He underthrew a deep dig route at one point, but adjusted his velocity and timing on the next two throws, showing the ability to respond that coaches will appreciate.