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Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Free agency in the East: Cornerbacks

By Dan Graziano

In light of the word that the proposed new NFL labor deal would make players with four years of service time into unrestricted free agents, there has been some support in the comments for a free-agent rundown as it pertains to our little division here. We're going to do it position-by-position, over the next couple of days, and because the biggest-name guy in the field is a cornerback, we're going to start with cornerbacks.

NFC East teams in need

Nnamdi Asomugha
Nnamdi Asomugha is the big prize in this year's free-agent class.
Cowboys: Dallas plans to move Alan Ball, who flopped as a safety, back to the cornerback position, where they already have Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman as starters. Assuming all of those guys are on the team, the Cowboys could decide to stand pat and focus their energies on upgrading at safety. But one of the starters may have to be cut to create cap room, and if that happens, expect the Cowboys to be big-game hunters on the corner market.

Eagles: They need another corner to play opposite Asante Samuel, and they've said they plan to be aggressive in free agency. That could mean playing at the top end of this pool, but even if they don't land the big fish, expect Philadelphia to come up with someone on this list.

Redskins: Carlos Rogers wants out and the team seems inclined to grant him his wish. But while Redskins fans may be sick of Rogers, he's not a bad player and he will need to be replaced.

Top five potential unrestricted free-agent cornerbacks

1. Nnamdi Asomugha. The prize of the offseason free-agent market. Probably the second-best corner in the league behind Darrelle Revis. Asomugha will draw interest from all three of the above-named NFC East teams plus plenty of teams (Baltimore? Houston?) outside the division. Whoever does sign him will use a lot of cap space to do it, which is why, as much as Dallas might want him, he might make more sense in Philly.

2. Johnathan Joseph. Some talk that the Bengals will make him their franchise player, but if they don't, the 27-year-old rising star stands to ride Asomugha's coattails to a big payday somewhere outside of skimpy-spending Cincinnati. A fine fallback for the Eagles or Redskins. Cowboys? Sure, but my hunch is, if they don't get Nnamdi, they spend elsewhere and either keep the corners they have or go further down this list for a replacement.

3. Antonio Cromartie. Remains to be seen if the Jets will keep him (or if they'll pursue Asomugha as well!). Cromartie comes with plenty of baggage, as his attitude and effort were in serious question at the end of his time in San Diego. Doubt he'd fit in a place like Dallas or Washington, where peace and quiet are going to be important to the short-term and long-term plans.

4. Chris Carr. He's said he'd like to return to Baltimore and that he'd be willing to play some safety in order to do that. Lots of turnover is expected in the Ravens' secondary, and depending on how other things shake out, Carr could be a surprise entry onto the market and a nice fit in Philadelphia or Washington, neither of which is too far from Baltimore. His fellow Baltimore corner, Josh Wilson, would be an intriguing name on the market as well.

5. Ike Taylor. Known more as a physical corner than a traditional cover type such as Asomugha, Taylor is a perfect fit right where he is, in Pittsburgh. But there have been rumblings lately that he's seeking a big payday, and Washington seems like it could use an infusion of toughness and a championship-seasoned veteran presence on defense.

Predictions that mean nothing: Asomugha to the Eagles, Taylor to the Redskins, Cowboys stand pat at corner and spend on safety.