Waiting out the defensive backs market

March, 13, 2013
3/13/13
9:59
AM ET
The main reason Tuesday night was so quiet in the NFC East in free agency was the relative lack of salary cap space among the division's teams. But another reason was that all four have significant needs in the secondary, and defensive backs aren't really signing anywhere just yet.

It's simple supply and demand -- so many veteran cornerbacks and safeties have been released in the past couple of weeks that the market is now flooded. When supply goes up, prices go down, and that could mean the defensive backs on the market aren't finding the deals for which they'd hoped. Assuming that's the case, it would be good news for the teams in the NFC East, all of whom are in the market for at least some help in the secondary:

[+] EnlargeAntoine Winfield
Tom Dahlin/Getty ImagesA glut of veterans like Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield, 26, has created a buyer's market for teams seeking secondary help.
The Philadelphia Eagles, who have by far the most cap space in the division, could legitimately use two new starting cornerbacks and two new starting safeties. Maybe Bradley Fletcher and Patrick Chung, who signed Tuesday night, can compete for two of those spots, but neither is a sure thing, and even if they were the Eagles still need two more starters.

The Washington Redskins, who released veteran DeAngelo Hall on Monday, need a starting cornerback opposite Josh Wilson, and a free safety to replace the disappointing Madieu Williams. They have very little cap room, as a result of the $18 million in league-imposed penalties still hanging over their heads this year, and so they'll need to find bargains. A slow-moving market with greater supply than demand works in their favor.

The New York Giants signed old friend Aaron Ross on Tuesday and appear to have some depth at cornerback with him, Corey Webster, Prince Amukamara, Jayron Hosley and maybe even Terrell Thomas. But assuming they're going to lose Kenny Phillips in free agency, they're likely in the market for a safety. The Dallas Cowboys have their starting cornerbacks, but have a need at safety after releasing Gerald Sensabaugh. The Cowboys are dealing with $5 million worth of those same cap penalties the Redskins have, and will need to create room and find a bargain if they're to address the position. Every day that goes by without a flurry of big safety signings is good news for the Giants and the Cowboys.

You want names? They are too many to list here. Check out ESPN.com's free agency tracker if you want wish lists for these teams at cornerback Insider or at safety Insider. As you can see, plenty of interesting choices across the spectra of talent, age and versatility. One of the reasons the defensive backs market is likely slow to rev up is because of the big names that have landed on it in recent days. If you were a team making plans to pursue a free-agent defensive back and then, over a 48-hour stretch, guys like Hall, Nnamdi Asomugha and Antoine Winfield became available, you'd have to at least press pause and evaluate, no?

Whatever the reason, the slow-developing, supply-choked market for cornerbacks and safeties is good for teams in the market for help at those positions. The NFC East has four such teams. So while I understand it's a fan's job to panic when your team doesn't sign anyone on the first day of free agency, I ask you to take a deep breath and consider that, in this case, that might turn out to be a good thing.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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