Veteran cornerbacks that possess a winning pedigree can add a ton of value to an NFL franchise as general managers prepare to search for advantageous additions throughout the second and third wave of free agency. Several of the high-level free agent cornerbacks have already agreed to new deals elsewhere, leaving the remaining cornerbacks in higher demand as teams continue to consider upgrades at the position.
When combing through the list of experienced cover-men that still find themselves on the open market, Patrick Peterson sticks out as particularly intriguing. An eight-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro, Peterson remains a starting-caliber cornerback at the tender age of 31. Now relying on his savvy experience more than the athletic traits that once made him one of the greatest boundary cornerbacks of his generation, Peterson has played through every in-game situation one can conjure up. That makes him an extremely valuable addition at this point in the offseason.
We’ve identified three free-agent fits for Peterson.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
The departure of J.C. Jackson has left a sizable hole in New England’s secondary. The Patriots were hesitant to award Jackson with the historic contract he landed in Los Angeles and Bill Belichick and Co. must work diligently to find appropriate replacements. Finding a like-for-like replacement for a player as talented as Jackson is impossible, and the Patriots must partake in an exercise that replaces Jackson by committee. As things stand, the likes of Terrance Mitchell, Shaun Wade, and Myles Bryant are being heavily relied upon in New England’s secondary, and they would be wise to make a signing that pushes these players further down the depth chart.
The Patriots have already signaled their intention to add a veteran cornerback to their defense. Belichick is reportedly considering a reunion with former Patriot and Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler, who will allegedly work out for the Patriots this week. Butler didn’t play in 2021 after a pre-season retirement as a member of the Arizona Cardinals, and signing Peterson would represent a better option at this point in time. Playing in the pass-happy AFC East alongside Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills means the Patriots must stay prepared to defend the pass. Signing Peterson would make them more successful in that department.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Peterson previously spent five seasons (2013-17) playing for Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians in Arizona, a time period that represents Arians’ entire duration as the Cardinals’ head honcho. Buccaneers cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross spent those same five seasons as Peterson’s cornerbacks position coach. General manager Jason Licht also spent two seasons in Arizona alongside Peterson, first as the team’s director of player personnel in 2012 and later as their vice president of player personnel in 2013. Furthermore, Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles spent two campaigns (2013-14) as Peterson’s defensive play-caller before becoming the head coach of the Jets.
The relationships and ties between the two parties are literally endless, and everyone involved has enjoyed reuniting with familiar faces.
Changes are coming to a Buccaneers defense and secondary that ranked in the bottom half of the league in passing yards per allowed contest (238.9). Licht did well to re-sign cornerback Carlton Davis but unfortunately lost safety Jordan Whitehead in free agency, as the former Pittsburgh Panther landed with the Jets. Licht and Arians have never been afraid to bring in an aging veteran. They signed Richard Sherman midway through last season and recently added former New England Patriot cornerback-turned-safety Logan Ryan, who now reunites with Tom Brady. Tampa Bay’s front office and coaching staff are extremely familiar with Peterson.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Rams lost starting cornerback Darious Williams in free agency after the gritty, former undrafted free agent signed a sizable contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Williams’ departure has left the Rams with a large question mark at the cornerback position opposite superstar cover-man Jalen Ramsey.
Grant Haley, Kareem Orr, and Robert Rochell currently help fill out Los Angeles’ cornerback room, and more is clearly needed at the position. Adding Peterson would appropriately push those players further down the depth chart.
Going ring chasing in Los Angeles is expected to be a popular decision for aging veterans. It’s unfortunate that Peterson has never appeared in a Super Bowl and he’ll surely attempt to rectify that fact before putting a bow on his illustrious playing career. Los Angeles’ 2021 Super Bowl triumph helped Andrew Whitworth, Von Miller, and Odell Beckham win their first Lombardi trophies while awarding Von Miller with his second ring. With none of those players currently a part of the 2022 Rams (Beckham may still return), general manager Les Snead could be looking for an injection of veteran leadership as his Rams aim to make it back-to-back titles. Peterson deserves one last shot at capturing football’s ultimate prize, and the Rams have a clear-cut need at the position.