Justis Mosqueda has a great piece up at Bleacher Report that identifies a “prize target” for every team in free agency this offseason. For the Los Angeles Rams, it’s of course the position du jour (de la semaine? du mois? DE L’ANNÉE?! ZUT ALORS!): cornerback.
The name, though, might be a bit of a surprise:
Los Angeles Rams: Aaron Colvin, Cornerback
In 2016, the Rams lost cornerback Janoris Jenkins to free agency. That same year, he made a Pro Bowl with the New York Giants. In 2017, the Rams traded away E.J. Gaines to the Buffalo Bills, and he proved to be a high end No. 2 cornerback for the Bills last year.
In 2018, Trumaine Johnson, a twice franchise-tagged corner, may leave Los Angeles. A team can only hemorrhage so much at one position before they take action. Aaron Colvin could be the cornerback defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is looking for.
The Jacksonville Jaguars certainly benefited from playing him next to Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye behind the most talented defensive line in the sport in 2017, but he had a career year. Pro Football Focus even noted his extremely low passer rating in the playoffs.
If Johnson does walk, and there aren’t many players who have signed long-term contracts after having the franchise tag slapped on them twice in back-to-back seasons, Colvin may quickly become the Rams’ No. 1 free-agency target as they try to rebuild their secondary.
Personally, I’d have no qualms bringing in Colvin. ESPN’s most recent free agent rankings (which obviously aren’t the end-all-be-all but alas...behind the insider paywall, BTW) rank Colvin the #20 overall free agent in the NFL. For reference, Rams CB Trumaine Johnson is 12th overall, but Colvin is the third CB on the list following Washington Free Agent Signers CB Bashaud Breeland at #19. Signing Colvin would lessen the need at cornerback, though not eliminate it, with Tru possibly (likely?) heading elsewhere. Nearly every mock draft has the Rams taking a cornerback at #23 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft; that taking a corner likely changes that let’s you know how much of an impact a signing like this would have.
Surprisingly, Johnson isn’t on Mosqueda’s list anywhere though multiple other corners are. He pins the Kansas City Chiefs to pursuing Denver Broncos CB Aqib Talib. He has the Philadelphia Eagles going after Chiefs CB Phillip Gaines. And Chicago Bears CB Kyle Fuller is his top target for the Tennessee Titans. Given all that cornerback interest coupled with the likelihood that Tru is the best cornerback on the market makes it a bit of surprise that Tru doesn’t make the list.
Two other Rams do though.
Mosqueda thinks the Baltimore Ravens should be hitting the market for WR Sammy Watkins:
These are the top-100 receivers who have been drafted by the Baltimore Ravens:
At some point, Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome just needs to accept it’s their weakness during draft evaluations. At some point, he is going to just need to pay a free-agent receiver. Hopefully, that point is the 2018 offseason.
Still only a 24-year-old, there’s a good chance Sammy Watkins, the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft, is able to hit the free market.
After recording over 66 receiving yards per game and 17 touchdowns in his first three years with the Buffalo Bills, Watkins was traded to the Los Angeles Rams after the first week of the 2017 preseason. The cost? Cornerback E.J. Gaines and a second-round pick.
Learning the offense on the fly, Watkins was able to record 593 receiving yards and eight touchdowns for the high-flying Rams offense, but he is not one of the 10 Rams with a cap hit over $5 million in 2018. While Los Angeles is busy paying its linebacker corps, star defensive tackle Aaron Donald, twice-tagged cornerback Trumaine Johnson and Watkins are all looking for new deals.
Should Watkins get lost in the shuffle, he’s a perfect fit for Baltimore, a team that could use a highly touted speed demon falling in their lap. Over the last two years, the only quarterback who has a worse yards per attempt number (with at least 500 passes) than the Ravens’ Joe Flacco is Brock Osweiler. Opening up the downfield throw for Flacco is paramount.
The thing that worries me about Watkins is that he certainly would get more work by volume elsewhere. The Rams’ offense last year was built on the strength of its diversity and viability of RB Todd Gurley in the passing game. As a #1 wideout, I’m sure Watkins would like to be more involved. In his three years in Buffalo, Watkins averaged just less than 7.5 targets per game; in LA last year, he averaged less than 5.
Meanwhile, could Lamarcus Joyner be the top target for the New York Giants?
If your pass defense is an issue, you can either add more pass-rushing talent or more secondary talent. The Giants’ starting defensive ends, Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon, will have combined cap hits of $24.5 million in 2018, individually making them two of the four highest-paid defensive ends in the sport.
That number could rise to two of the top three, too, with the expectation Muhammad Wilkerson will be a cap casualty by the New York Jets this offseason. There’s no precedent if the Giants do decide to add another big name to their defensive end rotation.
That means the improvement defensively almost has to come in the secondary, where safety play hasn’t been great. A cornerback spot may open up, too, as 2016 first-round pick Eli Apple finished the season suspended and may be released by the team.
The addition of a player such as Lamarcus Joyner, a safety who can play opposite of Landon Collins, could help the Giants rebuild in a post-Apple world. Joyner finished as the NFL’s fifth-best safety in Bleacher Report’s 2017 NFL1000 series.
Adding Joyner to Jenkins and Collins makes me quite unhappy. Quite, indeed!
What do you think about targeting Colvin, Rams fans? Is there a different cornerback you’d prefer they angle for? Concerned with the idea of Watkins heading to Baltimore or the G-Men scooping up Lamarcus?