In wake of the news coming out of One Bills Drive on Levi Wallace suffering a hamstring injury, it’s time for the Buffalo Bills to browse the free-agent market at cornerback. Now, I’m not saying that the Bills need to make a splash move at the position by signing some big named free agent or trading away valuable assets for a cornerback.
The opposite needs to occur.
There haven’t been any big-name cornerbacks available via trade and even if they were, do we really think the Bills would trade for them? Probably not. Meanwhile, the free-agent pool of cornerbacks is relatively shallow. Still, that doesn’t mean the Bills won’t dip their toes in the pool and test the waters.
Early hamstring injuries to cornerbacks Josh Norman and Levi Wallace could lead to lingering issues all season so it’s best for them to consider a veteran cornerback to have in their back pocket for much of the season. That leaves us to the question of who is on the market? Here are three players the Bills should consider signing at cornerback.
Quite possibly, one of the best free agents available not named Jadeveon Clowney is Prince Amukamara. Recently released by the Las Vegas Raiders, Amukamara is looking for a new home. It’s been reported he’d like to return to the Giants but that ship has probably sailed. Especially since the Giants just signed Logan Ryan at cornerback. That doesn’t mean he can’t still play in New York. Buffalo, New York, that is.
At 31-years old, he’s got experience in multiple defensive schemes but despite having 10 years of experience, he could be losing a step or two. Outside of giving their younger players an opportunity, this could be a reason to why the Raiders released him.
Last season for the Bears, he was targeted 58 times, allowed 36 receptions for 515 yards. Experience playing in a variety of spots from up in the box to free safety, Prince has found most of his success outside (799 snaps there in 2019). Amukamara only surrendered two touchdowns last season but registered zero interceptions and only four pass breakups. He was susceptible to some chunk plays which is reflected in his 14.3 yards per reception, but he was actually ranked 9th in PFF’s Snaps per Reception at 14.5. This statistic shows that he gave up a reception every 14.5 snaps, which is obviously top-ten in the league. If the Bills brought him into their defense, not only would he bring the experience but he’d bring some physicality that the secondary could use to protect them against some of the bigger receivers in the league. He could be brought in much like Kevin Johnson was and rotate in if needed and be a situational corner when Leslie Frazier wants to play man coverage. He would have the luxury of two very good safeties in Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde to help minimize some of the explosive plays he gave up last season.
Prince Amukamara is now 31 after a long stretch in NYG and CHI. He's 6'1" 205lbs and was VERY fast coming out of the draft from Nebraska in 2011. His play hasn't seemed to obviously drop off, despite his age. Could be worth kicking the tires…
— Greg Cover 1 🏈 (@GregTompsett) August 31, 2020
Originally drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft, the Bills could consider kicking the tires on this one. Cockrell has most recently played for the Carolina Panthers and we all know how that connection goes for the Bills. In addition, Cockrell has some versatility that McDermott and his staff would covet for their secondary.
Last season for the Panthers, he played 253 snaps in the slot and 353 snaps as an outside or wide cornerback. His versatility allowed him to rack up 54 tackles and 19 stops. Opposing receivers only reeled in 55.2% of the passes thrown in Cockrell’s direction in 2019, which led to 37 receptions against the veteran, for 441 yards and one touchdown. Beyond just playing in the secondary for the Bills, Cockrell could also play plenty of snaps within the special teams unit. Aside from the 733 snaps on defense that he took, he also had 101 snaps on special teams last season.
According to ESPN, a deal with the cornerback needy Giants was in place but the two sides couldn’t work out the financial details so the deal fell through. Cockrell’s options are waning by the day and may have to take a bargain one-year deal if he wants to suit up this season.
So whenever Josh Norman or Levi Wallace become healthy, this would give the Bills another option to mix and match within their coverages. If there was a move that makes the most sense from a perspective of versatility, financially and schematically, this would be the signing that Bills fans want to see.