The Commanders Case for Signing James Bradberry

Former New York Giants cornerback James Bradberry
Photo Credit/AP Terrance Williams

The New York Giants released Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry on Monday after failing to find a trade partner, per Dan Duggan. The release saves the Giants $10.4M in cap space.

Why should the Washington Commanders be interested? They have two quality starting corners already. So, why add a third? Well, for a couple of reasons.

The first reason, and maybe the biggest reason, is that the Commanders had the 29th ranked pass defense last season. The unit surrendered over 4,300 passing yards and 34 passing touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks. You could point fingers at any and all of the secondary and you wouldn’t be wrong.

Taking a look at why the team struggled is important. William Jackson III was Washington’s biggest off-season aquisition last year. He came from a scheme that played primarily man-to-man. Washington plays primarily zone. He started coming on later in the season, but he largely underperformed. He earned himself a PFF coverage grade of 59 (on a scale of 0-100). Clearly, he left a lot to be desired.

Then opposite of Jackson III was Kendall Fuller, their big aquisition from the previous off-season. Fuller struggled too, at times. He allowed the second most receptions (67) among qualifying cornerbacks in 2021 according to PFF. Yet, simultaneously, he recorded 16 pass deflections and earned a PFF coverage grade of 78. An inconsistent season, at best, and that was good enough to be the best corner on the team last season. Let that sink in.

Finally, there’s Benjamin St. Juste. I’m not a fan of throwing rookie corners into the fire from the get-go. However, Rivera and Del Rio clearly don’t agree. They gave St. Juste a lot on playing time early on before his season was cut short due to concussions. I don’t believe he played terribly for a rookie third round pick, but he definitely didn’t play well. His PFF coverage grade? A whopping 49.

Then, of course, there’s always the Carolina Connection. Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera has had a pention for bringing in staff, coaches, and players from his Carolina days. Bradberry was drafted by Rivera and the Panthers back in 2016 and he quickly became an impact player for the Panthers. He would be a natural fit for Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio on the field and in the locker room.

Back in 2020, James Bradberry was about to hit the free agent market and he sat down with NBC Sports Washington reporter J.P. Finlay. Bradberry discussed his desire to play for his former head coach Ron Rivera again:

“I would love to play for coach Rivera again. Like I said he’s a great man and a great coach…”

(NBC Sports Washington J.P. Finlay interview Feb. 2020)

In short, signing Bradberry would bolster Washington’s secondary and give it the jolt it needs. Last season wasn’t his best, but the Giants also had one of the worst pass rushes in the league, which definitely played a factor. This signing would also allow Del Rio to mix up coverages and play to each of Jackson III, Fuller, and Bradberry’s strengths a little more. They could kick Fuller inside to the slot, where he started his career and made his mark. It would also relieve pressure on Jackson III and allow him more time to adjust to this zone scheme. Maybe most importantly though, in a time where the league is valuing the wide receiver position so heavily, you can never have too many quality corners to combat that.

The only question that remains is; can the Commanders afford him? With a Terry McLaurin extension in the works, it’s hard to see the money working. Rivera and Mayhew could always talk Bradberry into a one-year deal or backload his contract. Ron Rivera is trying to win now. Anyone that has been paying attention can certainly tell there’s a sense of urgency. However, I don’t see either of those two scenarios playing out. Not necessarily from lack of trying, but I just don’t see them beating teams that will be contending or teams with more cap room.

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