Cornerbacks: 2019 Bucs Free Agents: Brent Grimes, Javien Elliott, De’Vante Harris
Grimes had to be convinced to return back last season after considering retirement and played like someone that didn’t really have the enthusiasm to play. Grimes mailed it in while collecting $7 million and participating in 13 games. On the way out, he criticized the Bucs and their coaching on his wife Miko’s “I Heart Miko” podcast, particularly for asking him – their number one corner – to guard Antonio Brown. Grimes burned a bridge with his critical comments and won’t be back on the Bucs even if he decides not to retire.
Javien Elliott is certainly an adequate player who might be re-signed if the Bucs’ new coaching staff likes what they see from him on tape. He played in 15 games last season, getting one interception during that time. Sometimes there’s just not enough room for every player on the depth chart and Elliott falls victim to that. Harris played in 10 games and had a total of nine tackles and three pass breakups in primarily a backup role.
Top NFL Free Agent Cornerbacks: 1. Ronald Darby – Eagles 2. Bryce Callahan – Bears 3. Kareem Jackson – Texans 4. Steven Nelson – Chiefs 5. Kevin Johnson – Texans
Others: Pierre Desir (Colts) Bradley Roby (Broncos), Jason McCourty (Patriots), Jason Verrett (Titans), Morris Claiborne (Jets), Rashaan Melvin (Raiders), Brashaud Breeland (Packers), Justin Coleman (Seahawks), Darqueze Dennard (Bengals)
Outlook: There are a lot of young corners here in the top five set to to hit their prime get a big salary with Darby 25, Nelson 26, Callahan 27, and Desir at 28. Jackson is the oldest of the bunch at 30, but is coming off a highly successful year with 17 passes defended, which was third best in the entire NFL. The Bucs are still tight on the salary cap right now, so until more cuts are made, they won’t be in the running for a high priced corner. They could look at a veteran like Kareem Jackson if they clear some space.
Bucs’ Best Bets: Morris Claiborne
The Bucs will be banking on their young secondary to develop more this season as the likes of Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart went through some growing pains in their rookie season, with general manager Jason Licht already coming out to say that Stewart will be moved to safety. Tampa Bay will be looking to add a veteran corner to help with the young group progress.
As stated before, the Bucs don’t have the room to sign a game-changing corner that can take the number one spot, but what they can do is bring in a player like Claiborne to fill the role that they need. After having injury problems in the beginning of his career, Claiborne has played in 30 out of a possible 32 games over the last two seasons. He’s played in a strong role as the number two corner for the Jets, defending 14 passes last year, and now he would get a shot to help lead a cornerback group as the Bucs get him at a cheap price.
Claiborne has played around rookies and young secondary players, such as Marcus Maye and Pro Bowler Jamal Adams, so that wouldn’t be a problem for him on the Bucs with Davis. Also, Claiborne’s coach during his time in New York was of course, Todd Bowles, letting him fit right in to the Bucs new defensive coordinator’s system.