When the Giants signed Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a five-year, $35 million contract this March, the team wasn't making a depth play. General manager Jerry Reese was bringing in Rodgers-Cromartie to be New York's top cornerback and lift an already talented secondary to the next level.
Just what is that next level? The Seattle Seahawks showed just how far a top secondary can take a team when they dismantled the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. When Rodgers-Cromartie was on the sidelines with the rest of the Denver defense, he watched the Seahawks hold Peyton Manning and company to just 5.7 yards per pass attempt while grabbing a pair of interceptions.
Can the Giants have a secondary that good in 2014? The odds of that aren't that great, but the tools are in place to forge a unit that will be a force to be reckoned with. Prince Amukamara, who is slated to start opposite Rodgers-Cromartie at cornerback, is entering his prime, and veteran safety Antrel Rolle is coming off the best season of his career.
As for Rodgers-Cromartie, he's coming off a solid season with the Broncos in which he picked off three passes, knocked away 11 others, and scored a touchdown. If the 28-year-old out of Tennessee State can replicate that performance, he'll be quite an addition to the Giants, but the last time he joined an NFC East team, Rodgers-Cromartie didn't get off to the best start.
In 2011, he joined the Eagles via trade and was supposed to be part of an intimidating secondary that also included Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha. Instead, Rodgers-Cromartie failed to intercept a pass for the entire season and didn't have as big of an impact as he could have. If he flops like that in his first season with the Giants, the secondary will go back to being a work in progress.
The good news is that Rodgers-Cromartie recovered from 2011 to have a 2012 season that was more up to his standards. He picked off three passes and set a career high with 51 tackles to set up a one-year deal with Denver. That 2011 season was the only one in which Rodgers-Cromartie intercepted fewer than three passes and only one of two in which he failed to score a touchdown. If last year with the Broncos was any indication that Rodgers-Cromartie is back to his playmaking ways, the Giants could have quite a player on their hands.
This season with New York, head coach Tom Coughlin has said that Rodgers-Cromartie will shadow the other team's top receiver, regardless of which side he is playing on. That strategy could take some pressure off of Amukamara, who hasn't exactly been a "shut-down" defender during his tenure with the Giants.
No matter whom Rodgers-Cromartie ends up covering in 2014, his solid history as a starting NFL cornerback should give the Giants a veteran weapon to deploy against the league's top receivers. With players like Dez Bryant and Pierre Garcon in the NFC East, that kind of player could make the difference between qualifying for the playoffs and staying home in January once again.