More money, more problems. The Notorious B.I.G. idiom pretty well sums up the last couple weeks for the New York Giants. Offensive tackle Nate Solder‘s opt out gave the Giants a bundle of cap space they weren’t expecting. Then, DeAndre Baker‘s placement on the Commissioner Exempt List and Sam Beal‘s opt out left the Giants dangerously thin and unproven at cornerback. Fortunately for Big Blue, money can often help solve problems in the NFL. General Manager Dave Gettleman is reportedly expected to spend a slice of that newfound cash on cornerback Ross Cockrell.
According to Art Stapleton, New York plans to sign the former Carolina Panther, who already had a stint with Big Blue in 2017. The Duke product was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2014 and also spent time with the Pittsburgh Steelers. After Baker and Beal’s departures, the Giants were virtually forced to add to their cornerback room. Cockrell represents the best bang for their buck at the position.
The 29-year-old started eleven games with two interceptions for Carolina last year. He also had a 68.1 passer rating against that ranked eighth lowest among corners with at least 600 snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Cockrell missed all of 2018 with a broken left tibia and fibula, but started nine games for the Giants in 2017 with three interceptions.
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Cockrell is no star, as there’s a reason he was available this late into free-agency. He had a 57.5 overall PFF grade last year and has been injury-prone throughout his career. Still, he provides the certainty of pro-level play at the second cornerback spot, and will allow the likes of Corey Ballentine, Darnay Holmes, and Julian Love to develop at their own pace.
He should also come at a cheap price. Cockrell is coming off a two-year contract with Carolina that paid him $3.3 million annually. Given the quiet market for him this offseason, he’ll probably get a bit of pay-cut. Cockrell shouldn’t cost New York much more than a couple million dollars.
Strangely enough, with Cockrell joining fellow ex-Panther James Bradberry, the Giants have essentially adopted Carolina’s corners from last season. According to Football Outsiders, the 2019 Panthers ranked eleventh in pass-defense DVOA. Of course, their is more to pass defense than cornerback play, but New York should be happy their starting tandem was part of an effective pass-coverage unit last year.
Even after the Cockrell signing, the Giants should still have roughly $20 million in cap space. New York will likely want to roll over most of that to next season, especially since next year’s cap is expected to drop due to revenue-loss because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bigger-ticket players like Logan Ryan are out of the question at this point, but the Giants could still add inexpensive depth at cornerback. Available veterans such as Trumaine Johnson, Dre Kirkpatrick, or Brandon Carr could interest New York if the price is right.