- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Our man Adam Schefter reported Sunday night that free-agent cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who spent Sunday meeting with the Giants, will return to the Giants' facility in East Rutherford, N.J., on Monday to undergo a physical. I take this as a sign that Rodgers-Cromartie and the Giants are making good progress toward an eventual signing.
It doesn't have to mean that, especially since the guy spent Saturday meeting with the Jets and it's only like a half-hour from the Giants' facility to the Jets' facility (depending on which way you go). If he wanted to, Rodgers-Cromartie could hit the Giants with a thanks-but-no-thanks and be in Florham Park in time for a noon news conference. But for the purpose of this particular post, let's operate as though Rodgers-Cromartie is likely to be a Giant and analyze what it would mean.
First of all, I think it would be a good signing for the Giants, who had a rough time locking in their top targets at cornerback last week but could end up benefiting by having to "settle" for a better player later in the market.
Rodgers-Cromartie is tall and fast and extremely talented and three weeks shy of his 28th birthday. He's an exciting player, which isn't necessarily the best thing you can say about a cornerback, but I mean it at least as much in its positive connotation as in its negative. He can be beaten deep and will drive you nuts from time to time when he bites on a double-move. But he's fast and athletic enough to compensate for mistakes, and he's got an ability to make plays on the ball. Eagles fans still justifiably bitter about the way things went in 2011 and 2012 will tell you he can't (or won't) tackle, and they may be right, but that's a nitpick. A cornerback who's doing his job (i.e., covering receivers and breaking up passes) doesn't have to tackle. And by the middle of 2012, the entire Eagles defense had mailed it in and nobody wanted to tackle. Rodgers-Cromartie had a fine year in 2013 with the AFC champion Broncos, who likely would have brought him back if they hadn't been able to upgrade to Aqib Talib. And he's young enough to make you believe he's on the upswing.
This would be the best player the Giants have yet signed in free agency -- a starting outside cornerback along with Prince Amukamara. With Walter Thurmond, who signed Sunday, in the slot and Trumaine McBride and Jayron Hosley on the bench, the Giants would boast a deep cornerback corps and finally be able to keep safety Antrel Rolle from having to play any corner at all, which would make him happy and maximize his value at safety. You could accurately call the secondary the strongest part of the Giants' roster.
I wonder whether the Giants will have to restructure a contract or two (Mathias Kiwanuka and Eli Manning are obvious candidates) to fit Rodgers-Cromartie under the cap. They had about $12 million in cap room at last check without counting the Jon Beason, Thurmond or Quintin Demps deals, so they're getting close to the number and have other needs yet to fill at wide receiver, tight end and on the offensive and defensive lines. (Remember, they don't get the $5 million in cap relief from David Baas' release until June 2. They'll use that to sign their draft picks.)
And from a purely selfish standpoint, the idea of having to type "Amukamara and Rodgers-Cromartie" every time I refer to the Giants' starting cornerback duo sounds like a pain. But I'd do it for you guys, because I know it would make you happy. And that's what I'm here for.
Last week, I wrote that the Giants were playing a risky game by targeting certain specific players and signing them early in free agency rather than letting the market come to them. Surely, Rashad Jennings and J.D. Walton could have been had for less money, and if not then similar players could. In this case, however, if they do end up signing this player, they could benefit from having patience forced on them. I think Rodgers-Cromartie is better than Tracy Porter or Corey Graham, whom they eyeballed early last week. And since they obviously weren't going to make the big-splash play for Talib or Darrelle Revis, he's basically the best they were going to do at this point. Assuming they can afford him and keep him from sneaking down I-80 to Florham Park, this is a move that would make the Giants better.