New York Jets Free Agency Primer (Cornerbacks)

Dalbin Osorio breaks down the top free agent cornerbacks who the New York Jets could target

With approximately $30-40 million in cap space, the New York Jets are pegged to be players when the new league year begins on March 3rd, 2014. Today, we look at free agent cornerbacks. Check out our look at Linebackers from last week here.

The New York Jets defense transitioned from a team built from the back of the defense (All Pro DBs and suspect defensive line play) to a team built from the front (All Pro DL and suspect DB play). The subpar play of Antonio Cromartie coupled with the growing pains of rookie Dee Milliner made opposing Wide Receivers getting behind Jets DBs on their way to the end zone a common occurrence. Not even the addition of future Hall of Famer Ed Reed rectified the porous play of the Jets secondary.

However, things are looking up because of the improvement in Dee Milliner towards the end of the season. Asked to shadow Browns All-Pro WR Josh Gordon, Milliner turned in his finest performance of the season with 8 passes defended. The rookie, then, held his own against Mike Wallace and rewarded the faith that Rex Ryan continued to show in him. The Jets now have an opportunity to rebuild what was once a strength for the team. Here’s who the Jets could target once free agency begins in two weeks.

1. Alterraun Verner, CB, Tennessee Titans

2013 Stats: 49 Tackles, 5 INTs, 23 Passes Defended, 1 TD, 2 Fumble Recoveries

Analysis: Verner officially arrived in 2013, as he was arguably the best cornerback in football not named Richard Sherman. Verner’s 23 passes defended were tops in the league, and he displayed a willingness to get physical with WRs (something he hadn’t done during his first two seasons). Verner, also, showed great instincts and a willingness to fight for the ball when matched up against bigger WRs like Andre Johnson of the Texans.

Likelihood: Verner’s performance this past season has most likely priced him out from the Jets pursuing. There has been speculation that he will join Mike Zimmer, and his former defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, in Minnesota. Let’s put this as a 2 for now, but Verner would be a great addition opposite Dee Milliner should his price range come down.

2. CB Walter Thurmond, Seattle Seahawks

2013 Stats: 7 Passes Defended, 1 Forced Fumble, 1 Fumble Recovery, 1 Sack, 26 Tackles

Analysis: Thurmond was suspended this past season for the use of performance enhancing drugs, but before his suspension was a member of the Seahawks vaunted Legion of Boom secondary. Playing primarily the nickel back position, Thurmond’s versatility was on display often as he would move to the outside at times to allow Brandon Browner to cover the slot WR. Thurmond is physical and a sure tackler, two traits Rex Ryan loves in his DBs. Thurmond is an excellent man cover corner and has great coverage awareness and ball skills.

Likelihood: I’m putting this as a 7. Jets General Manager John Idzik was part of the staff that scouted and drafted Thurmond, and Thurmond should come reasonably priced as teams shy away from him, due to his suspension. Also, a lot of teams may view his play as a product of the Seahawks secondary. Thurmond would be an upgrade from what Antonio Cromartie gave the Jets last year, or as a nickel back over Kyle Wilson.

3. Sam Shields, CB, Green Bay Packers

2013 Stats: 51 Tackles, 4 INTs, 17 Passes Defended

Analysis: Shields signed his restricted free agent tender before the off-season last year and put together a very good season in a contract year. His 4 INTs were a team high for the Packers as Shields was one of the bright spots for an otherwise poor performing Packers defense. He, also, showed improvement in tackling and was used by defensive coordinator Dom Capers as a blitzer.

Likelihood: Shields earned $2.03M this past season and he is most likely looking for a raise. A deal in the $5M range would most likely get it done, and Shields is young enough at 26 where it seems his best football is ahead of him. I’ll put this as a 4 for now, barring him resigning with the Packers. The Packers haven’t ruled out franchise tagging Shields, but he would prefer a long term deal.

4. Charles Tillman, CB, Chicago Bears

2013 Stats: 33 Tackles, 3 INTs, 3 Forced Fumbles, 7 Passes Defended

Analysis: Charles Tillman only played in 8 games for the Chicago Bears this past season as he battled injuries. However, the 33 year old veteran still made an impact as he was able to tally his 34th, 35th, and 36th career interceptions. He, also, had 7 passes defended in 8 games and showed that he was still able to wreak havoc on the football field by forcing three fumbles.

Likelihood: As insurance and competition for Antonio Cromartie and as a mentor for the Jets young DBs (Milliner, Darrin Walls, Aaron Berry, and Kyle Wilson), Idzik won’t find a better DB. Plus, last year was the first year since 2004 that Tillman battled injuries as he’s proven to be very durable. The Bears look to be installing a youth movement on defense, so Tillman’s days could be over. I’ll put this as a 4.

5. Terrell Thomas, CB, New York Giants

2013 Stats: 58 Tackles, 8 Passes Defended, 1 INT, 1 Foced Fumble

Analysis: Thomas bounced back from a torn ACL in 2012 to put together a nice season for him. He started 7 games for the Giants and showed no ill effects from the ACL injury. He displayed good lateral quickness and solid man to man skills. Thomas was, also, very good in run support.
Likelihood: If Thomas is 100% healthy from his torn ACL, as he displayed this past season, the Jets would be wise to sign him as competition and depth for the DBs.

Likelihood: His price would be lower than a guy like Brent Grimes (as you see, not on this list) and he’s a good enough DB that would benefit from the defensive line play that the Jets have. However, he may resign with the Giants (the team that stuck with him after the torn ACL), so I’ll put this as a 3.

Author: Dalbin Osorio

Dalbin Osorio is a Case Planner for Graham-Windham, New York's oldest child welfare agency. He is, also, a student at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. Dalbin graduated from Monroe College with a degree in Business Administration. A 3 sport utility man in high school (think a mix of Jerome WIlliams, Brad Smith, and Jayson Nix), he joined TOJ in 2013.

  • Lidman

    They aren’t the be all end all, but the PFF rating system had K Wilson as the 2nd best Slot CB mid way through the season. I don’t know where he ended up. Wilson, to me, is a solid player. Like him or not, NYJ fans were spoiled by Revis’ level of play, that ‘good CB play’ was often criticized.

  • Charles Gallo

    And now Revis is on he trading block. Should we pursue him?

  • John X

    I like Thurmond but would be leery to commit to him as a starter on the wide side due to his recent suspension. I think his price will drop dramatically as a result. Could he be brought in as a nickel back? You could trade Wilson and certainly upgrade that position.
    Is Wilson going to stick around after this season to continue defending slot?

  • Harold


    I doubt you would get Shields for 5 million per season. He has been an solid CB for the last 3 years and as you mentioned is 26. He will likely get a contract in the 7 million dollar per year range.

    If he was cheaper there would be no discussion about the fanchise tag, IMO.

    You are missing some guys like Tarell Brown who is better than Thomas by a mile. He would be a good player on a three year deal. Good player, not a superstar but solid ball skills and a competitive player.

  • Harold

    I also left out Captain Munnerlyn as well.

    I think he would be a solid upgrade as well, over Cromartie’s play last season.

  • Dalbin

    Thanks for reading guys, really appreciate the comments.
    1) I’m glad you pointed out PFF not being the end all be all before stating Wilson was a good slot CB. I actually think he was much better this year than in years past, but do think this will be his last season in NY. I think a team will tout those same stats PFF uses and see a guy that might be a starting CB. Idzik would be smart to, if he’s added reinforcements during free agency, explore the trade market for Wilson before he walks for nothing.
    2) Charles, not at $16M per season. Revis is the best CB in football IMO but I wouldn’t pay $16M for him.
    3) John, I don’t think Wilson’s back, but I do think (and agree with you) that Thurmond would be a significant upgrade.
    4) Harold, great points. Yeah, I think any of the two you mentioned would be good additions. I listed Thomas because of the production he’d give you if healthy plus the cost he’d come at. We don’t know what Idzik is going to do with actual cap space. Should be fun.

  • Harold


    Appreciate the fact you respond to the readers. Definitely makes want to read and share comments. Well written even if I didn’t agree 100%.

    P.S. I think you may be surprised, I think Idzik would be inclined to pay a high quality F/A if he is young and ascending player with a track record of past performance (No one year wonders).


    It’s about time you rectified your problem of people NOT BEING ABLE TO READ YOUR CONTENT because of the background. Now I will come back. THANK YOU!!!!!

  • John X

    Harold’s correct. John has an owner who doesn’t want to sit back and quite frankly, this wasn’t the approach when John was in Seattle. And everyone’s aware there are a lot of holes on this team. Watch for an aggressive FA season from the Jets.

  • KAsh


    First off, congratulations are in order. Make her happy. And don’t let your fans come to the wedding.

    As for corners, unless the Jets’s medical staff concludes that Cromartie will never be close to the same player he was before, cornerback should slip so far down the list as to not be considered a need. You have neglected other positions for so long that you can allow yourself to have questionable corners for one season. We have not had a good safety tandem in forever; in the first place, the constant hole at safety is what stretches our corners thin with all the added responsibility. For too long have we cycled through Aaron Maybins and Calvin Paces at OLB. I cannot remember the last time we had a great TE. And our receivers have been a mess for many years. All of these positions are chronic problems, to the point that most of the fan base is used to living with them, like an amputee gets used to living without a limb.

    As for corners, this was supposed to be a strong and deep position on the Jets. For years, we have heard that our backups could start if they got the chance. But Cromartie stumbles and we start to scavenge the land for a replacement, when we should look to promote from within. Walls and Berry have not yet developed to the point we want, so we should push them by getting them some competition in the draft and then let the cream rise to the top. Milliner on one side and Cromartie on the other, with a guy in the wings ready to replace him is better than just throwing money at the position.

  • Dalbin

    @Harold: Thanks man, you guys make this fun, and I enjoy the feedback and interaction. Idzik msy definitely surprise us.
    @Steven: no idea what that means, but glad you’re back.
    @John: definitely possible that Harold’s correct.
    @Kash: haha, thank you man, really appreciate the congrats. I do hope the Jets lean on Walls and Milliner more and choose to spend money on a top flight Safety like Byrd. Great points.

  • Dave

    I like your analysis on each corner. I think you did a real good job breaking down these guys.

    However, I am not sure where you got your list from. Terrell Thomas??? Charles Tillman??? Thurmond???

    This Jet defense is soooo close to being dominant, all we need is a rebuilt secondary, and we will be the best defense in the league. This means pairing Miliner with a top notch corner. We are going to have over 50 M to spend and there are lots of corners that are much better than Thomas and much younger than Tillman. I love Peanut Tillman, but we need to ink someone to a 4 or 5 year deal, and he is just too old for that.

    With all this cap space we need to sign a top notch corner!

    The list should read:

    1: Alterraun Verner
    2: Vontae Davis
    3: Aqib Talib
    4: Sam Shields
    5: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
    6: Brent Grimes
    7: Captain Munnerllyn
    8: Tarell Brown
    9: Chris Harris
    10: Charles Tillman

    No Thurmond. No Thomas. TIllman, if you cant get anyone else.

  • John X


    You’re still going to have a soft middle if Harris and Davis’ coverage liabilities aren’t addressed. And if they can’t send someone else to get pressure from the outside, all it will take is decent protection before the better QB’s dissect our coverage.
    My point is, we are a little farther away from rebuilding the secondary. They’re getting closer but it’s still a work in progress.

  • KAsh


    John is right, but he also forgot about the safeties. Our safeties are horrible. Allen flashed something last year and the hope is he translates that into a full year of greatness, but Landry should be a borderline roster cut. Without good safeties, you need two (or three) All-Pro corners, and those have a nasty habit of asking for $16mm/yr.