Projecting Best Fits for FA CB Cortland Finnegan

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystMarch 5, 2014

Projecting Best Fits for FA CB Cortland Finnegan

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    In a move that surprised absolutely no one, the St. Louis Rams informed cornerback Cortland Finnegan of his release on Wednesday, according to Nick Wagoner of ESPN.

    With a cap number of over $10 million in 2014 and fresh off of the worst season of his eight-year career, Finnegan was cut loose by the Rams two years after signing a five-year, $50 million free-agent contract.

    It's an ignominious end in the Gateway City for Finnegan, who once brawled with Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans during a game and who regularly appears on lists of the NFL's dirtiest players.

    Of course, Finnegan is also a former Pro Bowler who topped 100 tackles for the Rams in 2012. There's going to be interest, even if Finnegan's new paycheck isn't as fat as the old one.

    With that in mind, here's a handful of teams who should consider opening the checkbook.

San Diego Chargers

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    On one level, the San Diego Chargers make more sense for Cortland Finnegan than just about any team in the NFL.

    As good as the Chargers were during their surprising run to the playoffs last year, the Chargers cornerbacks were terrible. San Diego ranked 29th in the NFL in pass defense, and San Diego didn't have a player listed among the top 90 cornerbacks in the NFL in 2013 at Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    That's almost three times around the entire league before the Chargers placed one guy on the board. In the same division as Peyton Manning, no less.

    The problem, as it always seems to be in life, is money.

    Only four teams in the NFL have less cap space than the Chargers, even after they released free-agent bust Derek Cox.

    With only about $7.5 million in cap space and a rookie class still to sign, it would take some creative accounting to get Finnegan into the fold in San Diego.

    Of course, that doesn't mean they aren't trying.

Oakland Raiders

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    If there's a team in the NFL for which the mantra "money is no object" applies this year, it's the Oakland Raiders.

    Mind you, this isn't to say Oakland general manger Reggie McKenzie will spend Oakland's estimated $65 million in cap space (per Spotrac) like a drunken sailor. That isn't McKenzie's style.

    However, there's also no denying that pressure is mounting on the Raiders to show some signs of progress, and to do that, the Raiders need to upgrade in a number of areas.

    One of those is at cornerback. Oakland ranked 28th against the pass last year, and both of Oakland's starters from 2013 (Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins) are also unrestricted free agents.

    Finnegan could at the very least serve as a "bridge" to youngster D.J. Hayden, or he could be the best cornerback on the team.

Denver Broncos

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    OK, this is the last AFC West team, I promise.

    (Although the Chiefs need help in the back end, too)

    The Denver Broncos were the champions of the AFC in 2013, but as the team enters the offseason, uncertainty in the secondary is growing by the day.

    With Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie already set to hit free agency, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports the Broncos have also severed ties with longtime cornerback Champ Bailey.

    Bailey joins Finnegan (and Dunta Robinson, and Asante Samuel, and...) in a rapidly growing pool of veteran cornerback talent available, while Denver moves even farther to the buyers side of that market this offseason.

    Much of Denver's interest in the free-agent market will likely depend on whether the team retains Rodgers-Cromartie, but if he joins Bailey in leaving town, the Broncos are going to have a lot of holes to fill in the defensive backfield of a pass defense that ranked 27th in the league last year.

    Throw in that Denver can offer Finnegan the chance at a deep playoff run for the first time in his career, and the Broncos might be able to sign the veteran at a reasonable price.

Indianapolis Colts

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    Well, at least we made it out of the West.

    The Indianapolis Colts, like the Denver Broncos, were a playoff team in 2013.

    Just like the Broncos, the Colts also have a cornerback (Vontae Davis) who is about to hit the open market next week.

    If there's a big difference between the two teams, it's in cap space.

    According to Spotrac, the Colts have nearly $41 million in cap space, fourth-most in the NFL.

    That not only affords the team the coin to keep Davis in the fold, but also the resources to upgrade opposite him.

    There's reason to think the Colts might want to explore that upgrade. Like Finnegan, Greg Toler had an injury-filled nightmare of a season in 2013, missing seven games and allowing a passer rating of over 90, according to Pro Football Focus.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    At 289.8 yards per game allowed in 2013, the Philadelphia Eagles brought home the mantle of the NFL's worst pass defense.

    Some of the problem was bad coverage. Horrific tackling by the safeties didn't help.

    The Eagles have already locked up several key offensive free agents and still have over $29 million in cap space to play with, so the defense would appear to be the priority for free agency and this year's NFL draft.

    Enter the aforementioned Cortland Finnegan.

    Granted, as with every other team on this slideshow, Finnegan will have to show teams that last year was a bump in the road, and not the edge of a cliff.

    A flashback to 2011, when Finnegan was PFF's second-ranked player at his position, would be ideal, but let's not get nuts.

    However, that does serve as a reminder that Finnegan, not too long ago, was one of the NFL's best. He's not the biggest dog in the fight at 5'10", but you don't top 600 career stops by being shy about getting dirty.

    Even if Finnegan isn't able to anchor a secondary anymore, he still has value to one, especially a team in need of some more pop in the defensive backfield.