It’s time to take a look at the defensive backfield and we’ll begin with the cornerbacks.
Overall, the Chiefs situation at cornerback could be considered the strongest of all position groups. The corners are infused with young talent, anchored by a potential budding star in Brandon Flowers. The rest of the cast are all primarily younger, ascending players going through some tough on-the-job training playing opposite Flowers.
Although a strong cast on paper, it’s arguable that the Chiefs are missing a veteran piece to pull all of that younger talent together and send the position group onward to the next level of play. If the Chiefs are looking for an older, established veteran winner to steady the ship (much like the plan of signing the two Mike’s last year – Vrabel and Brown), they might be looking at this year’s crop of unrestricted free agents.
KCChiefs.com Free Agency Snapshot
Degree of Need: Low
Chiefs Under Contract (6): Jackie Bates, Brandon Carr, Travis Daniels, Brandon Flowers, Mike Richardson, Donald Washington
*Chiefs Without Contracts (1): Maurice Leggett (ERFA)
Chiefs Who Opened Camp in 2009 (8): Bates, Carr, Ricardo Colclough, Daniels, Flowers, Londen Fryar, Leggett, Washington
*(UFA) – Unrestricted Free Agent; (RFA)—Restricted Free Agent; (ERFA) – Exclusive Rights Free Agent
Whose Out There (restricted free agents excluded)?
Duanta Robinson (5-10, 182; age: 27) – Robinson will likely be a hot commodity because of his age. He is one of the few unrestricted free agents coming off contract under the age of 28. He’ll celebrate his 28th birthday on April 11th.
Those beginning draft picks of the Texans’ history seem to all be coming to the open market in 2010. The inaugural pick of the franchise, QB David Carr, will become a free agent (again), 2002 second-round pick T Chester Pitts is available and now Robinson, one of Houston’s two first-round picks in 2004 (the other was former Chiefs DE Jason Babin, also an UFA in 2010) is an UFA.
Now, if the Texans would just let their first-rounder from 2003 hit the open market (that would be WR Andre Johnson).
One thing that Robinson has established over his career in Houston is that he’s a ferocious hitter compared to his cornerback counterparts across the league. Also, he is the only player to have been franchised (2009) in Texans franchise history.
He was Pro Football Weekly’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2004 and is Houston’s all-time franchise leader in both INTs (13) and passes defensed (63). However, it should be noted that Robinson was shut out in the INT department for 2009 and he defensed just nine passes.
Hot of the presses this afternoon is news that the Texans will not put the franchise tag on Robinson for a second consecutive season. He will be open for bidding on March 5th.
Leigh Bodden (6-1, 193; age: 28) – Bodden is coming off an excellent season in which he led the Patriots in interceptions (five) and passes defensed (19). In case you’re wondering, that INT total would have tied Brandon Flowers for the Chiefs lead in 2009 and the defensed mark would have tied Brandon Carr for the second-most on the Chiefs defense (according to the defensive totals housed at Stats, INC).
Unlike a handful of the Patriots entering the open market this year, Bodden doesn’t have any previous ties to Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli. Bodden signed a one-year contract in New England last year in hopes of cashing in with this season’s crop of UFA cornerbacks. However, Bodden did spend three years as a starter in Cleveland under Romeo Crennel (2005-07).
Don’t get too excited yet. Just because Bodden only signed a one-year deal last offseason doesn’t mean that he won’t re-sign with New England. Then again, maybe it’s okay to get excited if you’re a Bodden backer. Last week the cornerback indicated that he hasn’t seen much progress in contract talks with the Pats.
Deshea Townsend (5-10, 190; age: 34) – Townsend serves as one of the elders when it comes to the UFA cornerback class of 2010. That, however, doesn’t mean that he won’t generate interest in the open market.
Playing all 12 seasons of his NFL career in Pittsburgh, Townsend has witnessed some serious defense and knows what a winning attitude is all about. He could possibly serve as a solid mentor to a younger group of players as a reserve cornerback.
Townsend’s last season as a full-time starter was in 2007, but he has generated 28 appearances (six starts) since 2008.
Anthony Henry (6-1, 208; age: 33) – If you like the idea of a proven veteran joining the Chiefs cornerbacks cast in some capacity, Henry could also be a candidate. He has a connection to Todd Haley, starting 26 games with Dallas from 2005-06. Most recently, Henry was on a one-year contract with Detroit.
Townsend may have a greater resume when it comes to winning than Henry, but Henry is also a year younger and has notched 21 starts over the past two seasons (15 with Dallas in 2008 and six with Detroit in 2009).
Henry’s numbers were down in 2009 with the Lions, but he could be a veteran candidate for a team to sign at the minimum.
Dre’ Bly (5-10, 188; age: 32) – Chiefs fans should be plenty familiar with Bly as he began his career across I-70 in St. Louis and then spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons as one of Denver’s starting cornerbacks.
He’s a proven player, playing as a primary cornerback for most of his career. In his only year with San Francisco this past season, Bly started the lowest amount of games over the past seven years of his career (six). Regardless, he proved once again that he can step in and spot-start when needed.
Benny Sapp (5-9, 190; age: 29) – Remember Benny? He’s still under 30 despite beginning his career in Kansas City way back in the Dick Vermeil era (how long ago does that seem?).
Playing a similar role to the one which he served in Kansas City, Sapp has posted single-season career-highs in starts (seven), solo tackles (37), total tackles (41), INTs (two), passes defensed (six) and forced fumbles (two) for one of the better defenses in the league. In Minnesota, Sapp was the Vikings’ third cornerback.
Maybe you’ve never been a Sapp fan? I’m just bringing to light that he’s one of the more familiar names on the market.
Sapp’s done enough during his two years in Minnesota that the Vikings would reportedly like to re-sign him.
William James (6-0, 200; age: 30) – James has bounced around over the past few years and 2010 could be his fourth season with a fourth different team, but he is coming off a season which was his finest in years. James played in all 16 games and made 14 starts for the Lions, posting his best personal single-season totals since 2004.
Detroit couldn’t have gotten much better production from a guy who didn’t sign with that franchise until July 28th. James finished 2009 with 69 tackles, two INTs (one for a 38-yard TD return) and 14 passes defensed.
Nathan Jones (5-10, 185; age: 27) – Though never a regular starter in the NFL, Jones is one of the younger UFAs to-be and also has a connection to Todd Haley. The Chiefs head coach and the former Cowboys cornerback spent all three of Haley’s seasons in Dallas together.
Jones will likely draw interest around the league given his age and the fact that he is coming off career-highs in starts (five), tackles (35), INTs (two), passes defensed (10) and forced fumbles (two). Also, keep in mind that he was good enough for Bill Parcells to bring with him from Dallas to Miami in 2008.
Rod Hood (5-11, 198; age: 28) – Hood was a mid-season pick-up after the Bears released him at the beginning of the regular season. He went on to have a productive 2009 with Tennessee, starting four games during the last two months of the season when injuries occurred to those ahead of him on the depth chart.
The thing that stands out about Hood is that he was once a regular starter for Arizona during Todd Haley’s tenure in the desert. On the other hand, Hood was available for the Chiefs to sign for roughly six weeks in September/October of 2009 and Kansas City didn’t bite (even with an injured Brandon Flowers).
Other free agent cornerbacks who drew at least four starts in 2009 include…
- Nick Harper, Tennessee (11 starts – age 35)
- Ken Lucas, Seattle (six starts – age 31)
- Brian Williams, Atlanta (five starts – age 30)