NFL Free Agency: Ranking the Top Free Agent Cornerbacks in 2022

This year's pool of solid free agent cornerbacks is deep. Who shines above the rest and could secure a larger contract elsewhere this offseason?
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NFL Free Agency: Ranking the Top Free Agent Cornerbacks in 2022

This year's pool of solid free agent cornerbacks is deep. Who shines above the rest and could secure a larger contract elsewhere this offseason?

5. Bobby McCain, Washington Commanders

There are several guys you could put in the fifth -- or even fourth -- spot in this lineup. But by the numbers, McCain had a very good season on a prove-it deal with Washington. After being cut by the Miami Dolphins in the offseason, the 28-year-old earned a 70.9 grade, according to Pro Football Focus. In 16 starts, he held opposing receivers to 19 catches on 32 targets and added a career-best 4 interceptions across 1,031 snaps -- the third-most among available free agent corners.

McCain is going to fly under the radar. After all, he did flame out in Miami and sits in the third tier of those looking for contracts at his position. By comparison, expect him to secure be short of his $6 million-plus he received from the Dolphins, but more than his $1.4 million from the Commanders. He's going to be a nice budget piece in the eyes of teams shopping the market, but to single out a few, the Jets, Jaguars and Steelers make sense. While the latter will require a replacement for free agent Joe Haden, the two former teams ranked last and next-to-last in Football Outsiders' pass DVOA this season.

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4. Rasul Douglas, Green Bay Packers

Douglas is another project player gone right. Following three disappointing seasons with the Eagles, the 26-year-old signed with the Panthers off waivers and started 11 games in 2020. He played solid, but it was only this year that his play earned him a spot here. After signing with the injury-ravaged and Jaire Alexander-less Packers in early October, Douglas was called upon to start a total of 9 games (he appeared in 12), racking up 5 interceptions -- 2 for scores -- and posting a 74.8 PFF grade.

For his lack of proven full years, Douglas makes up for it with his recent production and proven on-field ability. As a 6'2" corner, his larger frame has helped him in man-to-man situations, particularly near the line of scrimmage. He could be a big asset to a team looking to slow down YAC-ability guys like Deebo Samuel or Cooper Kupp. For that reason, he would fit best with a Seahawks team that struggled against the pass this year and heads into the offseason with the eighth-most cap space. Spotrac projects him for a $9.2 million market value and a three- to four-year deal given his age.

3. Stephon Gilmore, Carolina Panthers

Gilmore is now two years removed from his back-to-back All-Pro seasons in New England, but he's yet to slow down despite an unfortunate injury and a shift to a new team. After being limited to 11 games in 2020, the 31-year-old enjoyed his fifth Pro Bowl season with the Panthers, having earned a 77.1 PFF grade alongside 15 receptions against on 22 targets.

Even at this age, we could see the one-time Super Bowl champ get a two- or three-year contract with another club. He's proven to be a type of Darrell Revis lite late into his career. Given the veteran's $14.1 million market value, only 53% of the league could sign him under their current cap situations. The Chargers and Commanders seem like the most likely fit for someone like Gilmore.

2. Carlton Davis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Admittedly, the two top corners aren't above Gilmore by accolades, but by age. Davis is more than five years younger and, like Gilmore, has a Super Bowl thanks to a run alongside Tom Brady in Tampa. This year was a bit different than the last for the former Auburn Tiger, yet it was just as successful in terms of individual performance. He followed up 18 pass defenses and 4 interceptions with only 11 and 1, respectively, but PFF graded him at a solid-not-great 66.6.

As for the financials, Davis is set to make upwards of $19.5 million a year in this contract, potentially extending out as much as five years to get him past his age-30 season. That will be a massive investment for a team in need of help in the secondary, and the top candidates are the Chargers and Jaguars with their advantageous cap situations. And don't be surprised if the Bengals look to upgrade after their Super Bowl shortcoming.

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1. J.C. Jackson, New England Patriots

It's kind of funny because, essentially, Jackson turned into the new Gilmore for New England. Since 2020, he's had 28 starts in 33 games in route to 37 pass defenses and 17 picks. His 23 pass defenses this year led the league and carved his name as a Pro Bowler for the first time in his career. At 26, he was voted to the All-Pro Second team and was given a pristine 82.7 PFF grade, having allowed 50 receptions on 98 targets.

Jackson is considered one of the best five corners in the league regardless of free agent status. A projected $20.9 million a year contract would place him ahead of Jalen Ramsey on average value, so it might be more realistic if he gets something in the ballpark of $18 to 19.5 million a year to put him between second and fourth at the position. A Rosenhaus-driven deal could land Jackson something like five years for $95 million when the dust settles. The suitors are narrowed down based on the potential cap hit, but still, the Jets and Chargers have money to throw at him as do the smaller market Jaguars and Bengals. It will also be interesting to see if the Raiders throw their hat in the ring as they have roughly $21 million in space and have added former Patriot coach Josh McDaniels to their sideline this past month.

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Brett Oswalt has been writing about sports for five years, has covered everything from the NBA to College Football DFS, and previously served as an editor at numberFire. He is a Senior Workforce Planning Analyst at Highmark by day, and an avid sports fan and girl-dad by night. He resides in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife, Marley, daughter, Aria, and goldendoodle, Braun.

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