Former Colts’ cornerback Rashaan Melvin signed with the Oakland Raiders on a one year, $6.5 M deal. Last year, Melvin burst onto the scene as the Colts’ number one corner. In 10 games, Melvin had 30 tackles, three interceptions, and 13 passes defended. Melvin, unfortunately, had his season ended in week 12 with an injury but made his mark on the NFL. Per PFF, Melvin ranked 17th among corners in the NFL last year. He also had the ninth lowest passer rating when thrown at last year, (60.3) and disrupted passes 23.6% of the time.
The Cornerback position is one of weakness for the Raiders and Melvin slots in as an immediate starter. Chris Ballard elected to let Melvin test and found his asking price too high to bring him back. Melvin is also not the youngest player in the world, at 28. The Colts’ pass defense was improved last season but still ranked 29th in opponent pass yards per game. The Colts’ cornerback depth chart currently looks like this: Quincy Wilson, Kenny Moore, Nate Hairston, Chris Milton, and D.J. White. Pierre Desir remains unsigned. This group is young and filled with potential, but nowhere near good enough to combat some of the pass-happy offenses in the NFL.
The Colts could still look to free agency to upgrade the cornerback position. Bashaud Breeland agreed to sign with the Panthers but failed his physical due to an injury. Breeland is only 26 and could be a good addition to the Colts’ secondary. The Bills signed former Colt Vontae Davis, allowing E.J. Gaines to hit the open market. Gaines is an under the radar cornerback and was the 13th ranked cornerback in the NFL according to PFF.
Although he is 31 years old, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could be a solid veteran asset for the Colts. His great speed and man coverage ability make him valuable in any secondary. He will reportedly make a decision in April regarding where he will play next. The Cowboys released Orlando Scandrick, and like Rodgers-Cromartie is 31, and is a speed demon who plays well in man coverage.
In the draft, the Colts have quite a few options as well. The only cornerback worthy of a top 10 bid in my eyes is Denzel Ward, but the Colts will almost certainly not take him at six. Josh Jackson, projected mid-late first round, is likely out of the Colts range. The Colts likely will eye a cornerback at the top of the second round, with one of their three second-round picks. Jaire Alexander out of Louisville is a gritty tough cornerback with excellent instincts and ball skills with good athleticism. At the combine, he may have had the best field drills out of any defensive back. Isaiah Oliver has excellent size, speed, and strength, but is questionable at times in coverage. Donte Jackson has burner speed but is average in coverage.
Replacing Melvin and finding a new number one cornerback has to be one of Chris Ballard’s main priorities this offseason.
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_ and @FPC_Colts.