The Arizona Cardinals had questions at the cornerback position opposite Patrick Peterson going into the 2016 season, and it will be no different in 2017. Bruce Arians‘ team tried to find the answer in the draft, free agency, and even via trade. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, any corner they sought to add did not play at the level the team needed.
Future of the Arizona Cardinals Cornerback Position
The Current Roster
The Cardinals still have some players under contract at the position. Patrick Peterson is the obvious leader of the group. He will be counted on to shut down the number one receiver on opposing teams again next season. Justin Bethel will be back with the team after having an up and down 2016 season, where he played all season with a torn ligament in his foot. He started to come into form at the end of the season when he had four pass breakups and a pick-six.
The players returning from last season, who are entering their second year in the NFL, should show some major improvement in 2017. Brandon Williams, out of Texas A&M, played in only his second season ever as a cornerback in 2016 and showed flashes of his athleticism. Harlan Miller did not get to see the field as a cornerback last season, but he played two games at safety and played very well. Miller showed great range and discipline on his single interception of the year on a trick play by the L.A. Rams.
The final player returning for the Cardinals is veteran Mike Jenkins. The former first-round pick has dealt with some injuries and should still compete for a roster spot depending on how the draft pans out.
Potential Free Agents
Trumaine Johnson, Stephon Gilmore, A.J. Bouye, Malcolm Butler, and Logan Ryan are the most intriguing options in the free agent market. But those players will most likely demand high contracts that the Cardinals probably can’t sign them to. Looking further down the list of available options becomes much less impressive. Prince Amukamara is from Arizona originally, but he will also garner too much attention for the Cardinals to compete. Justin Gilbert has been dreadful in the NFL but has all the upside you could ever want in a player. And the Cardinals have shown they are willing to take a risk on a player with a character issue in the past.
The 2017 draft class has many cornerbacks who should be available for the Cardinals when they select at number 13. But the board may dictate that they go a different direction. If Arizona goes with a receiver or quarterback with their first pick, they most likely miss out on the cream of the crop including Teez Tabor, Marlon Humphrey, or Marshon Lattimore.
It will be tough to find a player with starting caliber talent in the later rounds of the draft this year. One player who could make a splash at the combine is Tony Brown from Alabama. After serving a suspension for the first four games of the season, he finished the year with 25 tackles and two interceptions. Brown has a 4.35 forty-yard dash time on film, and it will be exciting to see his other measurables.
Unless the Cardinals are ready to invest a first-round pick or big money in free agency, their answer may need to already be on the roster. A healthy Justin Bethel and Brandon Williams may be what Arizona needs.