Ross out, cornerbacks still on the market
Devastating news today as newly acquired cornerback, Aaron Ross, suffered a torn Achilles tendon during his conditioning test. The cornerback position is relatively shallow after the staple in Lardarius Webb, and Jimmy Smith fresh off a breakout season in 2013. Ross, along with Dominique Franks (who failed his conditioning test) were brought in to compete with Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson for the third CB spot on the depth chart.
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With Ross’ season over before it even began, where can the Ravens go from here? Do they look to sign another free agent to replace a previous free agent? Here are a couple guys the Ravens could look at on the market who are waiting for an opportunity just like this.
Drayton Florence – Florence started five games for the Carolina Panthers in 2013, picking off two balls in the process. Carolina was one of the top pass defense units in the league, ranking sixth in passing y/g allowed (the Ravens were 12th in that department). Florence is well onto the wrong side of 30 at 33 years old. However, he did play 426 snaps last year, and allowed just a 68.8 QB rating when thrown his way. He also allowed just one TD. He also missed just two tackles on the season, while making 26. Florence, a former second round pick out of the college football juggernaut, Tuskegee, will play for his fourth team in four years if he does indeed sign with someone. He has 20 career INTs and 103 passes defensed.
Terrell Thomas – Thomas suffered a setback in 2011 with a torn ACL. He would tear the same ACL again the following year. Two years removed from the game, he played a full and healthy 2013 season with the Giants where he logged 588 snaps. Now that his health is back, can the 29 year old turn into an impact player? He left a lot to be desired last year as he missed 11 tackles, allowed six TDs while intercepting one pass. QBs posted a rating of 106.0 when targeting him. Again, two years removed from football, that kind of poor production is likely expected. In his first three seasons before the devastating injuries, he racked up 11 INTs and defensed 38 passes. In 2009 QB Rating in his direction was 72.3. In 2010 it was 87.1. Not earthshattering numbers. But the potential for a bounce back season is there for Thomas.
I don’t expect to see Thomas or Drayton Florence unemployed when the season starts. Both of these players look like candidates for signings when a team suffers an injury, just like the Ravens current situation.
But in the Ravens current situation, they are looking for a third CB, a nickel cornerback. Florence played just four snaps as a nickel corner last year. In 2012 in eight games with the Lions, Florence played 50 snaps at the nickel and posted a QB rating against of 53.3. He had 26 snaps there in 2011, so he could lineup against the slot, but it’s not something he’s used to. Although at 6’0”, 200 lbs, that’s not really a terrible matchup for him if he faces a tight end in the slot.
Thomas on the other hand is well versed in playing the nickel corner role. 315 of his 588 snaps last year were against the slot receiver, with a 91.0 QB rating against. 2009 saw great success for him in the nickel with 297 snaps logged there, a 62.4 QB rating against, zero TDs allowed and three INTs.
Thomas would have the edge over Florence given the Ravens current situation. Needing a nickel corner, and on the right side of 30 years old.
Then again, maybe the Ravens are content with who they have. The injury to Aaron Ross opens the door for undrafted free agent Sammy Seamster to try to earn one of the likely five roster spots given to CBs. Most guys move from corner to safety as their coverage skills begin to diminish. Seamster however moved from safety to corner while at Middle Tennessee State, which tells me he’s getting better at his craft. He also played in 44 games through his collegiate career, and logged 793 snaps last year. So there’s no shortage of playing time here either.
Should the Ravens bring in another free agent of the caliber of Thomas or Florence, that will likely tell you how confident they are in Asa Jackson, Chykie Brown, Dominique Franks, and Sammy Seamster moving forward. I’ll leave you with this quote from John Harbaugh, classic coach speak as he hedges his bets, plays both sides of the fence.
“I don’t think we have any particular urgency. We have good players at corner. Our guys are competing. We like our guys. I expect the third corner to be one of the guys who was already here. The fourth corner, fifth corner, those guys are going to earn those jobs. But if there is somebody out there who could come in and bolster that competition, yeah we’ll bring them in.”