Can the Lions Bolster the Cornerback Position in Free Agency?

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In my last article, I examined players currently on the roster who may be able to step in and back up projected starters Slay and Mathis on the outside.  This week I’ll examine a few available free agent options.

Unfortunately, at this point the market is slim, so we’ll re-examine who is still out there during and after roster cut-downs.  Most of the current available free agent options at cornerback are winding down their careers, and two that I’ll highlight below are coming off of torn ACL injuries.

Jabari Greer – 5-10, 178 lbs.

Greer, a previous undrafted free agent from Tennessee, is a former track star with good speed in spite of his age (32).  In his first three seasons with Buffalo, Greer played mostly nickel, dime and special teams.  He eventually worked his way into the starting rotation, starting 10 games in 2008 before suffering an injury.

In 2009, Greer signed a four-year contract with the New Orleans Saints to be one of their starting corners.  Although he was injured on November 8, 2009, and missed most of the rest of the Saints’ 2009 regular season, he returned in time to play a significant role in the playoffs.  Greer enjoyed four more productive seasons with the Saints before tearing his ACL last season against the 49ers.  He subsequently was released in February to create more cap space so the team could sign Jimmy Graham.

According to Pro Football Focus, Greer’s production was slightly above average in 2013 before he went down to injury.  Though his slight build would always cause him to struggle matching up versus bigger receivers, Greer probably has enough left in the tank to play a valuable reserve role.  Though every player responds differently to rehab, the recovery time from a torn ACL for an NFL player is much quicker than it used to be.  With an average of seven months, Greer could potentially be ready to go by training camp.

Corey Webster – 6-0, 202 lbs.

Webster, like Greer, is a bit long in the tooth as he enters his tenth season in the league, all of which have been with the Giants.  He’s proven to be a productive starter over much of the last six seasons, though his play declined noticeably during the last two.  Groin and ankle injuries likely contributed to his decline and ultimately his being lost for the 2013 season.  Webster is resurging, though and plans to attempt a comeback in 2014.  With the requisite size the Lions are looking for, Webster could be a viable back-up option at the veteran minimum.

Curtis Brown -6-0, 185 lbs.

Brown is perhaps the most intriguing option of the three.  Drafted in the third round of the 2011 draft by the Steelers, the former Texas product has been unable to crack the starting lineup, mostly contributing on special teams.  However when I evaluated Brown prior to the 2011 draft, I projected him as a potential starter on the outside by year three.  Despite lacking in elite measureables and athletic characteristics, Brown has good length. Game evaluation has proved him to be a surprisingly fluid athlete for a high cut player with the long speed to blanket receivers when asked to turn and run.  While most comfortable playing Press Man, Brown also showed nice awareness in Zone with the ability to jump routes.  Though his lack of prototypical bulk and strength allows him to get out-muscled by bigger receivers, Brown was never one to shy away from contact in the run game. Released in March after missing most of the season due to a torn ACL in November, Brown could be ready to play by training camp, assuming he’s been rehabbing in the offseason.  At only 25 years of age, Brown has a lot of upside and is definitely worth bringing into camp.

Of the three, Webster is probably the safest bet, but Brown offers the most long-term upside.  The Lions Pro Personnel Department is undoubtedly researching the workout and rehab progress for all three players. Ultimately, how hard each has worked in the off-season will determine whether or not they get a closer look.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Season Corey Webster Cornerback Curtis Brown Darius Slay Detroit Lions Free Agency Jabari Greer Rashean Mathis

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