Finding a Fit for Newly Released CB Brandon Flowers
The NFL is a fickle mistress.
Despite making the Pro Bowl for the first team in his career last year, cornerback Brandon Flowers found that out the hard way on Friday.
As Terez Paylor of The Kansas City Star reported, the Chiefs released the 28-year-old after six seasons with the team.
The team released a statement. “We appreciate Brandon’s contributions to the team over the last six seasons,” general manager John Dorsey said. “It’s in the best interest of the club and the player to part ways at this time. We wish him nothing but the best as he continues his career.”
Maybe it was Flowers' $10.5 million cap number Flowers carried this year. Maybe it was the struggles last year that saw Flowers free-fall from 7th among NFL cornerbacks in 2012 to 87th in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Whatever the reason, Flowers is now looking for work, but as PFF's Pete Damilatis points out it probably won't be for long:
Even after a poor 2013, Brandon Flowers' +35.5 @PFF coverage grade in the last 5 seasons is the 5th-highest of any CB.
— Pete Damilatis (@PFF_Pete) June 13, 2014
Here's a handful of teams who should be among the first to pick up the phone.
Flowers wasn't the only veteran cornerback shown the door on Friday.
As Kyle Meinke of MLive.com reported, the Detroit Lions released Chris Houston, just one year after handing the 29-year-old a $25 million contract extension.
Given that Houston was the team's top cornerback, and that the Lions weren't exactly loaded with talent at the position with Houston on the roster, his release leaves the Lions in something of a predicament.
After all, Rashean Mathis is 34. Darius Slay was benched more than once as a rookie last year.
Finding the cap space to swing such a deal wouldn't be easy for the Lions, but this is a team that has to face both Aaron Rodgers and the Bears' wide receiver duo of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall twice each next year.
Would you want to do that with Mathis and Slay as your starters?
And yes, the Lions added free agent Cassius Vaughn. The same Cassius Vaughn who ranked dead last among NFL cornerbacks in 2012 and 76th last year, according to PFF.
The Philadelphia Eagles were the NFL's rags-to-riches story a season ago, rising from the NFC East cellar to claim the division title.
This, despite ranking dead last in the NFL in pass defense, allowing nearly 290 yards a game.
Brandon Boykin (the Eagles' slot corner last year) played well for the team in 2013, but outside starters Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams ranked 44th and 80th respectively at PFF last year.
That isn't especially, um, good.
Adding Flowers would give the Eagles (on paper, anyway), one of the deepest stables of cornerbacks in the NFL, a real asset for a team whose fast-paced offense has a tendency to produce shootouts.
The Eagles have the room to make the move, as well. According to spotrac (subscription required), the Eagles have just over $18 million in cap space.
Only five NFL teams have more.
San Diego Chargers
Like the Eagles, the San Diego Chargers were a surprise playoff team in 2013.
Like the Eagles, the Chargers also struggled stopping teams through the air, ranking 29th in the NFL in pass defense.
Unfortunately for the Bolts, the team has only about $2 million in 2014 cap space with which to make a run at Flowers.
That doesn't mean they shouldn't try. Yes, the Chargers drafted TCU's Jason Verrett in the first round of May's draft. However, Verrett isn't a miracle worker, and the Chargers didn't place a cornerback in PFF's top 90 last year.
Not only that, but like Flowers (5'9", 187), Verrett (5'10", 176) is on the small(ish) side, making Flowers a good candidate to "mentor" Verrett as he acclimates to the NFL.
Time to get the abacus out and free up some cap space.
Like the last two teams mentioned in this article, the Indianapolis Colts made the playoffs last year, winning the AFC South and downing the Chiefs before falling to the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round.
The Colts already have one of the NFL's better young cornerbacks in the fold. Indy traded for Vontae Davis two years ago, and last year Davis rewarded the team with a season that saw him rank third in the league at his position per PFF.
Opposite Davis, however, is another story.
The Colts signed veteran Greg Toler last year, but Toler missed nearly half the 2013 season and barely snuck inside PFF's top 75.
Adding Flowers, and pairing him with Davis, would afford the Colts a potent one-two punch at the position. It would also allow the team to either kick Toler inside or use him in subpackages.
Throw in that the Colts have $17.5 million in cap space and have been known to be very aggressive in free agency under general manager Ryan Grigson, and making a run at Flowers makes more than a little sense for the Colts.
New York Jets
The New York Jets exceeded expectations in 2013, even if those expectations were relatively modest.
The Jets went 8-8, which was good enough to save head coach Rex Ryan's job. The team then went buck wild on offense in free agency, inking deals with quarterback Michael Vick, running back Chris Johnson and wide receiver Eric Decker.
What the Jets didn't do what address a cornerback spot that's the Achilles' heel of the defense.
Dee Milliner was uneven at best as a rookie and has constantly battled nagging injuries since entering the NFL. Kyle Wilson and Ras-I Dowling are, well, Kyle Wilson and Ras-I Dowling.
Flowers would be an immediate and substantial upgrade, and one that the Jets have more than enough cap space to afford.
After the spending spree on offense, why not?
In for a penny, in for a pound.