Should the New York Giants pursue CB A.J. Bouye in free agency?

The New York Giants are entering a crucial roster-building offseason. The Giants were just one win away from making the playoffs in 2020, despite finishing with a 6-10 record. New York was close to getting over the hump and turning things around. However, they ultimately fell short.

The Giants do not seem to be far off of a good team. If New York can add a few extra pieces this offseason, they could establish themselves as playoff contenders in 2021. But there are a few holes for New York to patch up before the season rolls around. One area of weakness that the Giants need to address is their second cornerback position.

James Bradberry was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in 2020. But opposite of Bradberry, the Giants had a revolving door of cornerbacks starting on the outside. Whether it was Cory Ballentine, Isaac Yiadom, Ryan Lewis, or Julian Love starting at the Giants’ second cornerback position, the team had to endure inconsistent play from that position all season long.

There are a few solutions for the Giants to pursue at the cornerback position. According to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, it is unlikely the Giants are going to draft a cornerback with the eleventh overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. If New York is going to upgrade their cornerback position, it seems likely that they would do it through free agency.

Fortunately, this year’s free-agent cornerback market has a fair amount of veteran talent for the Giants to pursue. One additional cornerback has recently been added to the market: A.J. Bouye. The Denver Broncos cut Bouye this week after one season with the team. Now 29-years-old, A.J. Bouye is a veteran cornerback that is still playing at a high level and could be a target for the Giants in free agency.

AJ Bouye stats and highlights

A.J. Bouye was, at one point, one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Bouye had a career year as a member of the dominant 2017 Jaguars defense. That season, Bouye made his first Pro Bowl appearance, totaling 6 interceptions, 18 passes defended, and 56 combined tackles.

Since 2017, Bouye has struggled to return to that elite form. But he is still a savvy veteran playing at an above-average level. In seven games this season with the Broncos, A.J. recorded 6 passes defended and 23 combined tackles. Bouye was targeted in coverage 35 times in 2020, allowing 23 receptions for 273 yards and only 2 touchdowns.

Putting A.J. Bouye opposite of James Bradberry would give the Giants one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL. Those two cornerbacks plus the Giants’ trio of talented safeties in Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers, and Xavier McKinney, could shape into a top-five secondary in the NFL.

The Broncos saved $13 million in cap space when they cut A.J. Bouye. His last contract was lucrative, but now, it is expected that Booye’s next contract will see a significant pay decrease. If the New York Giants can sign A.J. Bouye to an affordable contract, he could be the player to take the defense to the next level.

New York Giants: Can Julian Love be the answer at CB2 in 2021?

New York Giants, Julian Love

The New York Giants had a great defense last season, much to the surprise of many. One of the weak spots of the unit, however, was CB2. James Bradberry was elite as a lockdown CB1 for the team, but on the other end of the field was a revolving door of cornerbacks.

This has resulted in many believing that Giants would look to address that position over the offseason, but it might not be as pressing of a need as we thought.

The multiple players the Giants put out there at CB2 continuously underwhelmed for much of the season. However, their last guy ended up being the best guy. In Week 17 against the Dallas Cowboys, the Giants decided to give 2019 fourth-round pick Julian Love a try, and it worked out really well.

Love, who was a very good cornerback at Notre Dame, broke up a couple of passes and displayed tight coverage throughout against one of the premier wide receiving units in the league. He played a big part in the Giants holding Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup to under 50 receiving yards each. Love shored up the weak link in the Giants secondary with his play and provided them with two legitimate corners for the first time all season.

Love’s play made Giants fans wonder why it took so long for the team to give him a shot at cornerback. It is his natural position, after all, and he was one of the nation’s best in college.

Over his three-year career with the Fighting Irish, Love totaled 176 tackles, 5 interceptions, 39 passes defended, and 2 forced fumbles. He was a Consensus All-American in 2018 and was also a Thorpe Award finalist, which is given to the best defensive back in college football.

Since Love has been with the Giants, they’ve been using him as more of a safety than a corner, which is something he didn’t play much of in college. Despite showing some promise in his role, it was clear at times that Love was playing a new position. He was even starting to see his playing time disappear because of how crowded the Giants’ safety group became, and it was looking like he was on his way to being another wasted draft pick. Not anymore.

As someone who’s been calling for the Giants to try Love at cornerback for a while now, it was great to see them finally give him a shot. Ideally, you would’ve like to see them make the move sooner so we could’ve had a bigger sample size, but the promise Love showed against a good offense is intriguing.

I’m not saying that the Giants shouldn’t add to the cornerback group at all during the offseason, but they should be more confident in Love’s abilities. I, for one, think his play has made CB2 not as big of a need as it was prior to Week 17.

The Giants would still be wise to use a mid-to-late round draft pick on a defensive back or sign a lower-tier free agent for depth and insurance purposes, but I think that they should go into next season, giving Love every opportunity to start opposite Bradberry each week. He should definitely be the lead candidate.

Will Julian Love be the answer? That remains to be seen. But after what he showed when given a chance, he has definitely earned more of them going forward. Most thought that the Giants would have to look elsewhere to fill the void in the secondary, but for all we know, the Giants might not have to look very far after all.

New York Giants CB James Bradberry named… “Unsung hero”?

New York Giants, James Bradberry

James Bradberry had one of the most impactful seasons for the New York Giants. He came in at the cornerback spot and immediately revitalized it after Janoris Jenkins departed in 2019. He was also recognized as one of the best players the Giants had this season. He managed to make the Pro Bowl while others were snubbed, but according to one source, Bradberry is actually an unsung hero.

An NFL.com article listing an unsung player for every team in the NFC picked Bradberry for the Giants.

The first of two NFC East cornerbacks on this list is Bradberry, who finished as the 13th-best wide corner in targeted EPA at -6.1. Bradberry also posted a targeted completion percentage allowed below expectation of -5.1, and tied for second in the entire league in passes defensed with 18. Only stellar Dolphins corner Xavien Howard had more than Bradberry, who also added three interceptions to his ledger in 2020 and finished with a ballhawk rate north of 21 percent. That three-year, $43.5 million deal the Giants signed Bradberry to in 2020 looks like a pretty good idea right about now.

This one is a bit of a head scratcher because while Bradberry does deserve the praise, he’s been getting it from plenty of sources this season. In fact, Bradberry has been one of the main bright spots of the defense that has made a significant impact on his position group. Just about everyone would rate the Giants secondary better as a whole because of his individual presence.

For some of the actual unsung Giants, such as 2020’s Mr. Irrelevant Tae Crowder, there’s some reason to be salty at not being listed here.

But it’s not surprising Bradberry is getting the attention. He was one of the biggest impact players on defense for the Giants last year, after all.

Will the New York Giants receive any compensatory picks this year?

New York Giants, Cleveland Browns

The New York Giants are not expected to be awarded any compensatory draft picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Giants hold the 11th overall pick in the 2021 Draft. They will only have six picks overall to fill the many needs on the roster.

In addition to their first-round pick, the G-Men will have the 42nd overall pick in round two, No. 76 overall in round three, No. 107 overall in round four, and two sixth-round selections — No. 172 and No. 177, the latter received in exchange from the Arizona Cardinals in the Markus Golden trade.

The Giants do not have a fifth-round selection due to the trade with the New York Jets for Leonard Williams. Big Blue also does not have a seventh-round selection either due to the trade with the Denver Broncos for Isaac Yaidom.

According to the compensatory draft pick cancellation chart compiled by “Over The Cap,” the Giants are not due any additional selections due to their aggressive shopping spree in free agency last March. They signed cornerback James Bradberry, linebacker Blake Martinez, kicker Graham Gano, outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell, quarterback Colt McCoy, tight end Levine Toilolo, and safety/special teamer Nate Ebner.

Safety/Special Teamer Michael Thomas was signed by Houston, but according to the chart, he is listed as non-eligible for compensation.

New York Giants: 3 cornerbacks to consider in free agency to fill void CB2 spot

xavier rhodes, New York Giants

The New York Giants revamped their secondary from 2019 to 2020. They brought in a bunch of new faces this past offseason, signing Logan Ryan and James Bradberry, and the Giants drafted Xavier McKinney in the second-round.

Their secondary was the fifth-worst pass defense in 2019. They allowed 264.1 passing yards per game in 2019, but in 2020, only allowed 237.9 passing yards per game. The Giants were in the middle of the pack for best pass defense, coming in at 16th.

Safety’s Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers, and Xavier McKinney are the future, and Bradberry island is a real thing. The G-Men just need another cornerback to go alongside Bradberry.

Here are three free agents the Giants should consider in free agency:

Xavier Rhodes

Xavier Rhodes was one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL this past season, but in 2017-2019, he struggled. The Minnesota Vikings decided to part ways with Rhodes this past offseason. Rhodes signed a one-year, $3,250,000 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts.

Rhodes recorded 42 tackles, 12 pass defends, and two interceptions this past season. With these solid stats, Rhodes could earn himself a pay increase but not too much where it will be out of the Giants’ price range.

If the Giants could find some money to give to Rhodes and if the secondary could repeat what they did this past season, this could easily be one of the best secondaries in 2021.

Jason McCourty

Will Logan Ryan recruit Jason McCourty to New York? The New York native just finished up his two-year deal with the New England Patriots — could McCourty team up with Joe Judge down in New York to finish his career?

McCourty has been a versatile cornerback who has played as an above-average outside cornerback for almost his entire career. McCourty has 723 career tackles, 106 pass defends, and 18 interceptions, and a Super Bowl Ring with Judge.

If McCourty wants to come to New York and leave his twin brother, the Giants have the capital to bring him in. He will have an opportunity to play alongside a Pro Bowl cornerback in Bradberry if he wants to.

Ross Cockrell

It seems like Ross Cockrell’s name is always in talks to come back to New York. With the Giants now having a better all-around team and an excellent secondary, he could come in and compete for the starting job on the outside.

Cockrell is currently on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; they are on their way to go play in the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers. With the Buccaneers stud cornerbacks, Cockrell has seen the least amount of playing time since his rookie season. Starting only two games and only recorded two pass breakups.

Cockrell only got a one-year deal with the Buccaneers for less than a million. But I will speak for all Giants fans here, we do not want another Cockrell fake signing again. Cockrell backed out of a deal this past offseason.

New York Giants secondary lacking according to PFF rankings

New York Giants, Jabrill Peppers

The New York Giants improved in the secondary this season, but they still have some ways to go. The main improvements, of course, were the additions of James Bradberry and Logan Ryan. And while Xavier McKinney spent much of the year injured, his return to the field sets up an intriguing next season with him playing besides Ryan and Jabrill Peppers.

Despite the improvements, the Giants still have a need at number two corner. That seems to have dragged them down when Pro Football Focus went over the league’s secondaries and put the Giants in the bottom half.

18. NEW YORK GIANTS

New York is this high because of one man only: James Bradberry. The fifth-year corner was signed to a monster contract this past offseason after four middling years with the Carolina Panthers. He didn’t play at a high level in his four years with Carolina, failing to surpass a 70.0 PFF grade in every season, so the contract was risky, to say the least.

But Bradberry proved all the doubters wrong and justified his pay this season. He ranked fifth among outside corners in coverage grade and fourth in forced incompletion rate (21%). There were quite a few missed tackles from him (14), but that’s something you can live with if he keeps up this shutdown play.

Some might disagree with where the Giants were placed as well as the dismissive assessment of non-Bradberrry members of the secondary because this take makes no mention of impact players Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan.

In fact, Ryan had his second best season in the tackling department in 2020 when he racked up 94. His three forced fumbles were also the second most he’s had in a season, and those who watched the Giants before his arrival can attest to his impact.

Jabrill Peppers also stepped up at safety this season and had a career high in both tackles and passes defended, registering a total of 11 in the latter category. That’s a big step up from his 5 the previous season. It gives him one of the highest totals overall this year at the strong safety position.

The Giants do indeed have a need for a number two cornerback, however, which may be addressed through the draft if the front office doesn’t target offense first, or a pass rusher. Alabama corner Patrick Surtain has been brought up as a name in the mix for the Giants to draft at the position, but with a number of other needs too, it’s not clear which way the Giants will go with the 11th pick.

New York Giants have no players selected to the 2020 All-Pro team

New York Giants, Blake Martinez

The New York Giants have been shut out of the 2020 NFL All-Pro team. This is now back-to-back years where the Giants have had zero All-Pro selections. Their last All-Pro selection came in 2018, with Saquon Barkley making the second team along with Aldrick Rosas.

No Giants made the All-Pro teams this year, despite having a number of worthy candidates. The Giants’ defense in particular saw numerous players put together standout seasons in the 2020-2021 regular season. Some Giants players received votes for the All-Pro teams, but no one received enough votes to actually earn a spot.

Who received votes?

Blake Martinez, Leonard Williams, James Bradberry, and Graham Gano all received votes for the 2020 All-Pro teams. Williams and Martinez received two votes each while Bradberry and Gano each received one vote.

Arguably the most confusing snub on the list of Giants snubs is cornerback James Bradberry. The Giants’ cornerback had a career-year and even made Pro Football Focus’s All-Pro team this season. Bradberry was second-team All-Pro via PFF, behind Jaire Alexander.

James Bradberry was phenomenal this season, totaling a combined 17 interceptions and pass breakups on the year, the third-most in the NFL. Bradberry was also selected to the Pro Bowl this year for the first time in his career. So he did receive some recognition, but one could argue that James deserves far more recognition than he is getting after seeing the 2020 All-Pro teams.

Leonard Williams also had a career-year in 2020, but he did not receive any recognition. Despite totaling a career-high 11.5 sacks and racking up an insane 62 pressures, Williams missed both the Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections. Granted, there is a lot of strong competition amongst interior defensive linemen, but Big Cat had an elite season that should have seen him earn some recognition.

Graham Gano is another player that received no recognition, despite a phenomenal 2020 season. After missing all of 2019 with a hip injury, Gano came back strong with the Giants. Graham hit 30 straight field goals this year, a Giants record. He also missed just one kick (57-yards), making 31 of 32 attempts (97%). Gano was not selected to the Pro Bowl and only received one All-Pro vote, but he was truly dependable for the Giants this year.

Finally, Blake Martinez, one of the Giants’ biggest 2020 free-agent acquisitions, also received zero recognition from the league for his phenomenal season. Martinez totaled 151 combined tackles this season, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 0 touchdowns allowed in coverage. At the very least, Martinez should have made the Pro Bowl.

These Giants were snubbed but a good part of the reasoning why could be the team’s win-loss record. Finishing 6-10, the Giants were never a top team in the NFL. Many voters might have held the team’s lack of success against these individual players. Regardless, the Giants and their fans know the level of talent that these players possess. This All-Pro absence will only serve as motivation for these players as they look to build towards the 2021 season.

Did the New York Giants find their answer at CB2 in week 17?

New York Giants, Julian Love

The New York Giants started the 2020 season with Corey Ballentine as their second corner alongside James Bradberry, who they signed during the off-season on a three-year deal. Bradberry ended up becoming a Pro Bowl level corner, who has dominated on a weekly basis for the Giants since exchanging his light blue jersey for a dark blue one.

However, defensive coordinator Patrick Graham still had a major problem opposite Bradberry, as he moved on from Ballentine after just one week. Ballentine earned 92% of defensive snaps in week one against Pittsburgh, and that number jumped to 45% in week two and fell to a measly 3% in week three. After that week three loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Giants barely used him at all, designating him to practice squad duties. They eventually cut him in week nine, and he latched on with the New York Jets.

After the Ballantine experiment failed, Graham moved onto Ryan Lewis, a former undrafted free agent who originally signed with the Buffalo Bills in 2018. He played in just five games this season following the replacement of Corey, but an injury derailed his campaign and once again created motion at CB2. Luckily, general manager Dave Gettleman allocated a seventh-round pick from 2021 for former third-round pick Isaac Yiadom, who made his way over from the Denver Broncos just before the regular season began.

Isaac really took hold in week eight, after Lewis picked up an injury. He had some ups and downs, with a season-high 77.2 coverage grade, per PFF against the Arizona Cardinals in week 14. However, his inconsistencies posed a significant problem, and after giving up two touchdowns in consecutive weeks against Cleveland and Baltimore, coordinator Graham elected to make another change. This is when second-year player Julian love finally earned the opportunity to test his talents at corner, his natural position.

Love was a fantastic corner at Notre Dame during his college years but made the transition to safety with the Giants in 2019 under James Bettcher. It took until week 17 of the second season to finally play the majority of reps as the number two corner. He finished with a 65.8 overall coverage grade, allowing 51 yards on four catches, but a majority came in the second half with Dallas trying to take a pass-centric road to victory.

The success Love enjoyed against Dallas poses a serious question, should he be considered as an option opposite Bradberry in 2021?

Realistically, the sample size is too small to guarantee Love the position moving forward, but he has the skillset and fundamentals down from his years at Notre Dame. I trust him more than Yiadom or any other practice squad players the Giants could possibly muster unless they allocate a solid draft choice toward upgrading the position.

The best-case scenario would be to find a solid corner who can compete with Love for the starting spot. It was encouraging to see him return to his natural state, and he looked like a good fit at the position. He understands Graham’s scheme well at this point, so the transition was seamless, and the hiccups were few and far between.

One thing he does have to work on is catching the football, as he dropped an interception while covering Amari Cooper on an out route in the second half. These are all things that can be worked on, but he has the natural instincts to be an adequate boundary corner.

New York Giants CB James Bradberry continuing to have dominant 2020 season

New York Giants, James Bradberry

The New York Giants are still, just barely, alive in the playoff race. New York has a chance to win the division with a win over Dallas this weekend, along with a Philadelphia victory. The Giants have a record of only 5-10 but have somehow stayed in the fight through the entire season.

New York did not get in the position they are in because of their offense. Rather, the Giants are in the playoff race because of their great defense. The Giants’ defense has put together some top-tier performances this season, led by elite cornerback James Bradberry.

James Bradberry stats and highlights

The New York Giants signed James Bradberry to a lucrative, three-year, $43.5 million contract this offseason. James spent the first four years of his career with the Carolina Panthers after being drafted by Dave Gettleman in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

Bradberry’s connection to the Giants through Dave Gettleman was obvious. Also obvious was Bradberry’s excellent man coverage, as he spent four years shadowing the best of the best in the NFC South’s wide receivers. Now, playing for the New York Giants, Bradberry has continued to be a great man-cover corner and has elevated his game to shutdown status.

The Giants are getting elite cornerback-play out of James Bradberry. This season, Bradberry has totaled a career-high 17 passes defended, fourth-most in the NFL. Bradberry was also selected to his first Pro Bowl of his career this year.

James Bradberry has earned a Pro Football Focus grade of 79.4 overall through 16 weeks. This makes him the fifth-highest graded cornerback in the NFL this season. According to PFF’s Austin Gayle, Bradberry is one of the leaders in yards allowed per coverage snap at outside cornerback, allowing 0.76 yards (fourth-best in the NFL).

Also according to Pro Football Focus’s tracking, James Bradberry has only allowed 1 catch for 25+ yards this season. He has been a truly elite, shutdown cornerback, never giving up big plays this year. As the Giants push through one last game before either entering the playoffs or the offseason, one thing is for certain: the Giants have a lockdown CB1 to build their defense around.

New York Giants: James Bradberry speaks on missing game with close contact

New York Giants, James Bradberry

The New York Giants didn’t have another key player on the field when they lost to Cleveland: not Daniel Jones, but James Bradberry. The cornerback has been selected for the Pro Bowl and may be on the All-Pro team by the time that team is named. Bradberry was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, not because he had contracted the disease himself but because of a close contact with someone who did.

Now that more time has passed and Bradberry hasn’t come down with the disease, it looks like he’ll be back in the Giants secondary for their next game against the Ravens. He’s also opened up about the source of the contact.

“I can’t really say I blame myself. It was just a predicament because of COVID. It was an uncontrollable accident that happened,” Bradberry said. The source of the contact was a chiropractor that was also working with New York Jets players. Bradberry got connected with the chiropractor after signing with the Giants and setting up in his new city.

However, that plan proved to be ill fated as that chiropractor received a positive test and Bradberry was taken out of commission with the Giants because of it.

“Of course he got popped with a positive COVID test later on in the season. I became aware he was with the Jets, so I knew he was getting tested every day, so I didn’t really see it as a problem,” Bradberry continued.

Bradberry has been activated off the COVID-19 list and should once again be in the lineup for the Giants when they face Baltimore. While his chiropractor worked with Jets players, it also appears that Bradberry is uniquely unlucky in this case – the Jets haven’t had to similarly place players on reserve because of this contact.