The New York Giants struck gold last offseason with the addition of ex-Panthers defensive back James Bradberry. Despite future-Dolphins signee Byron Jones readily listed atop the cornerback market, Dave Gettleman opted to stick to his GM’ing formula and in return, secured a true No. 1 corner. Bradberry tied for the league-lead in forced incompletions in single coverage (14) in 2020, en route to his first-ever Pro Bowl berth.
Yet, despite Bradberry’s brilliance outside, the presence of a quality option opposite him continues to elude the Giants. Corey Ballentine (released), Ryan Lewis, Issac Yiadom and Julian Love were all trotted out at the second cornerback spot at some point last season, each performing at varying degrees of underwhelming.
Out of the group listed above, Love likely has the best chance of staking claim to the gig in training camp. Yet, the team could instead choose to once again take the free agency route in hopes of solidifying the position.
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Desmond King Believed to Fit Giants’ Free Agency Formula
Tight on spending money as free agency creeps upon us, the Giants will have to be savvy with their roster decisions this offseason – likely leading to the team to deploy a similar formula to that which helped yield the services of Jones and linebacker Blake Martinez.
NJ Advances Media’s Zack Rosenblatt recently highlighted the logic that went into these signings:
1. Young players on their second contract. (Bradberry and Martinez were 26).
2. Productive player, but never a star/Pro Bowler type.
3. Not considered the top player at his position in free agency, and thus less expensive.
Rosenblatt believes that one of the prime impending free agents that tick off these boxes is Tennessee Titans cornerback Desmond King.
He was an All-Pro in 2018, his second year in the NFL, but his stock seemed to fall off after that. He was traded to the Titans in 2020 for just a sixth-round pick, though he did play well in Tennessee. The 26-year-old is primarily a nickel corner, so the Giants’ pursuit of King would be dependent on how they feel about 2020 fourth-round pick Darnay Holmes. He’s also a quality punt returner. PFF estimates him getting only around $6 million per season.
All-Pro Upside at a Fraction of the Price
It was not all too long ago that King was widely perceived as one of the league’s brightest up-and-coming players at the position. In 2018, just his second pro season, he earned first-team All-Pro honors as a cornerback, notching an absurd 90.4 overall Pro Football Focus grade (second amongst all NFL corners). To further highlight his on-field dominance that season, King was also named a second-team All-Pro as a return specialist, averaging 13.8 yards per punt return (third-most in the NFL).
Despite flashing near-elite traits at times, King quickly fell out of favor with the Bolts. The team signed perennial All-Pro Chris Harris this past offseason – a player with a vastly similar skillset to King’s. To add insult to injury, King grew increasingly displeased with his playing time, leading to a public rift with head coach Anthony Lynn. He was ultimately shipped out of Los Angeles for close to nothing (2021 sixth-round pick).
Yes, King may appear like an odd fit amongst a roster that already deploys the likes of Darnay Homes, Julian Love and Xavier McKinney – all of whom received playing time from the slot last year. With that said, King has excelled in the past while operating as a boundary corner, winning the Jim Thorpe Award in 2015, which is awarded to the top defensive back in college football.
Yet the most intriguing aspect of a King signing is the financial aspect. Pro Football Focus predicts King will ink a three-year, $17.5 million ($10M total guaranteed) contract in free agency. Quite the bargain for a 26-year-old player who has earned 85.7-plus overall PFF grades in half of his four NFL seasons.
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