With the first day of the 2023 NFL calendar now just three months away, it's time for most teams around the league to turn their attention to NFL free agency in a bid to improve their rosters for a new campaign.
Here are the top free agents at cornerback, taken from PFF's list of the top 50 players set to enter free agency.
Click here to jump to a position:
1. CB JAMEL DEAN, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Fellow Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis returned to the team this offseason on a three-year, $44.5 million contract that could serve as something of a benchmark to clear for Dean wherever he potentially ends up. Dean carries some injury history but has outperformed Davis since entering the league in 2019, earning coverage grades above 75.0 in every season thus far:
|Player||Coverage Grade||Yds/Cov. Snap Allowed||Run-Defense Grade||Open-Target %|
Dean takes some risks attempting to jump routes that at times can lead to explosive receptions over the top, but his size, athleticism and physicality at the line of scrimmage enable him to disrupt opposing wide receivers' releases and will have a lot of teams interested. He doesn’t have great ball skills — though he did snag two interceptions on the year — and can be a bit stiff in the hips, but we’re nitpicking here with a guy who can match up well with a lot of the top big-bodied wide receivers across the NFL.
Free agent rank: 16
We wrote earlier this year about potential candidates for extensions before the 2022 season concluded, and Bradberry found himself on that list because of a great start to the year. His 46.0% completion percentage allowed was the fourth-best mark among cornerbacks for the 2022 regular season, and his 19 forced incompletions ranked second.
Bradberry is likely best as a No. 2 after years of proving himself as a reliable No. 1, but there should be a huge market for his services nonetheless, as he’s proven to be adaptable, reliable and available throughout his NFL career. This season marked his fourth consecutive campaign with 1,000-plus snaps.
3. CB CAM SUTTON, PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Free agent rank: 17
Sutton quietly continued to excel in a Pittsburgh coverage unit that was otherwise very exploitable this season, with 2022 being just his second season as a full-time starter on the outside. Sutton signed a two-year, $9 million deal in 2021 that he outplayed in 2022, earning a 71.0 coverage grade and allowing just 411 receiving yards — the ninth fewest among cornerbacks with at least 400 coverage snaps on the season.
Sutton’s versatility as a defensive back who can still line up in the slot when called upon provides added value for interested teams, as well.
Free agent rank: 18
Peterson’s 80.7 grade in 2022 was the second-highest mark of his illustrious 12-year career, an impressive accomplishment this far down the road. Peterson intercepted 6.9% of passes thrown into his coverage this season, the fifth-best mark in the NFL, but his value is seen outside of just the turnovers. Peterson’s 82.5 coverage grade ended up trailing only three other players, including New York Jets rookie phenom Sauce Gardner, with his 0.81 yards per coverage snap allowed also a top-15 mark.
The Vikings' cornerback situation outside of Peterson in 2022 was a struggle almost every week, and his consistent performance was a major reason they managed to win close games despite not looking like a true top team based on various underlying metrics.
Free agent rank: 27
Jones had a remarkable first half of the 2022 season after moving to outside cornerback for the first time in his career and locking down opposing receivers week in and week out, but he eventually came back down to earth over the second half of the season as bigger No. 1 receivers took advantage of his 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame. Through the first 10 weeks of the season, Jones’ 82.1 coverage grade ranked sixth among cornerbacks. Down the homestretch, his 53.9 coverage grade ranked 82nd.
Nevertheless, Jones proved a lot with his versatility, and teams can now project him outside or back in the slot going forward.
6. CB MARCUS PETERS, BALTIMORE RAVENS
Free agent rank: 49
Peters returned in 2022 from a torn ACL suffered in 2021, and after an understandably slow start to the season, he regained his form down the stretch in a Baltimore secondary that settled in as the year went along.
One of the league’s premier interception hawks at cornerback, Peters failed to record multiple picks for the first time in his career. The soon-to-be 30-year-old suffered a calf strain in December that sidelined him for the final three weeks of the regular season, but this was just his first season outside of 2021 where he didn’t log at least 900 snaps. A big playoff outing against the elite crop of Cincinnati Bengals pass-catchers could help build momentum for him heading into the offseason. Peters is likely looking at one-year offers in free agency to serve as a No. 2 cornerback with upside going forward.