With the NFL Free Agency just around the corner, we're continuing our discussion of potential top free agent targets for the Cleveland Browns at each major position. We've already taken a look at the free agent QBs, RBs, WRs, and DL. Today we're talking about the defensive backs.
With aging veterans like CB Sheldon Brown and S Mike Adams, the Browns may be in the market for more depth in the secondary. Joe Haden and T.J. Ward, our first two draft picks in 2010, will be vital pieces to the Browns' defensive backfield for years. We also had Dimitri Patterson, who's another free agent this year, come out and play incredibly well for us last season. However, there is still room to upgrade. Whether or not the Browns' front office will be willing to use some of the available cap space on a cornerback or safety remains to be seen. If they do decide to add depth to the secondary through free agency, here are some of the potential targets.
- Brent Grimes (ATL - 28) – Brent Grimes' numbers came down last season, but that was partly because he missed four games with a knee injury. He's still one of the best cornerbacks in this class. There have been conflicting reports as to what people think the Atlanta Falcons will end up doing regarding Grimes. One writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution seems to think the Falcons would be reluctant to use the franchise tag on Grimes at $10.6 million, while another believes that's exactly what they'll do.
- Cortland Finnegan (TEN - 28) – Widely considered one of the dirtiest players in the NFL, Cortland Finnegan is also one of the best conerbacks. He's also one of the most likely to be on the open market. A recent report by The Tennessean stated that there has been no progress in the negotiations between the Tennessee Titans and Finnegan. He even has his home for sale. It's also expected that the franchise tag won't be a used here. I think he's going to get a big pay day from someone other than the Titans.
- Brandon Carr (KC - 25) – In four seasons, Brandon Carr has played pretty well. His tackles have come down, but he had a career high four interceptions in 2011. Some had speculated that with the Kansas City Chiefs signing Stanford Routt that perhaps it meant they wouldn't aggressively pursue retaining Carr. However, Chiefs GM Scott Pioli recently said that's not the case.
- Terrell Thomas (NYG - 27) – Terrell Thomas was on an upward climb in his career until he tore his ACL in a preseason game that caused him to miss the entire 2011 season. He's been ahead of schedule with his rehab from the injury and would prefer to stay with the New York Giants. The question is whether or not Thomas and the Giants will settle on a number before other teams look to outbid them.
- Richard Marshall (ARI - 27) – Richard Marshall's numbers have been pretty consistent in his six year career, even with a shift to safety for some of last season with the Arizona Cardinals. That's part of the reason Cards GM Rod Graves is making it a "priority" to re-sign Marshall.
- Rashean Mathis (JAC - 31) – Despite his age, Rashean Mathis still played very well last season before tearing his ACL in mid-November. He, too, is ahead of schedule in his recovery from the injury but won't be 100 percent by the time the free-agency period begins.
- Carlos Rogers (SF - 30) – In his seven-year career, his best season came when he got a fresh start with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011. He both benefited from and was a huge part of the 49ers turn around that got them to the NFC Championship Game. The 49ers GM Trent Baalke wants to keep their guys in place.
- Michael Griffin (TEN - 27) – Throughout his five-year career, Michael Griffin has been one of the best free safeties in the league. That also means he's going to fetch a lot of money for a safety, including the possibility of the $6.2 million franchise tag, which Griffin is open to if the Titans choose to use it on him.
- Dashon Goldson (SF - 27) – Another 49ers player that recorded his best season in 2011 as part of the big turn around and run at the conference championship was free safety Dashon Goldson. As mentioned before, Baalke wants to keep the guys in place, but would prefer not to have to use the franchise tag.
- Thomas DeCoud (ATL - 26) – Thomas DeCoud had career highs in tackles and interceptions in 2011, but according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he has a tendency to slide out of position but might come at a more modest price. Is he a better options than Mike Adams, who turns 31 in a month?
Remember, if you think there is a potential FA DB that the Browns should target that might have been overlooked or is even just worth mentioning, feel free to discuss that here. As always, think of this as a free agency open thread dealing with the defensive backs.