The cornerback position is a need but not a pressing need for the Carolina Panthers. Josh Norman showed he has the potential to be a shutdown cornerback while rookie Bene Benwikere demonstrated his ability to play both outside, as well as the nickel position.
However, as the NFL moves more to becoming more of a passing league, defenses need more than two cornerbacks. These are four players who the Panthers could target this offseason to shore up the cornerback position.
2014 Stats: 52 total tackles, 12 passes defended, 4 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery
If the Panthers wanted to add a veteran to rather inexperienced group, Antonio Cromartie may be the perfect fit. He will be entering his 10th season in 2015 and showed last year that he can still play at a high level. Panthers’ fans will remember him from the Wild Card game when he was able to intercept Cam Newton. He almost returned it for a touchdown but this play was the start of the Cardinals comeback.
Cromartie would not be a long term answer to the cornerback position and a two-year deal would be beneficial to both sides. This would allow the team to move Bene Benwikere inside to the nickel position with Cromartie and Josh Norman on the outside.
2014 Stats: 22 total tackles, 3 passes defended, 1 interception
One player who the Panthers may be able to get a bargain on is former Jacksonville Jaguars’ Alan Ball. He was only able to play seven games last year due to a bicep injury that forced him on to injured reserve. Ball is a big cornerback at 6’2” who could match up on the outside to take away team’s bigger receiving options.
Unlike Cromartie, who I believe could be a starter, Ball would be more of a depth signing. He has had some injury issues in the past but could provide some value to the Panthers. With teams like New Orleans and Atlanta in your division, who have prolific quarterbacks and are deep at the wide receiver position, having a number of options at cornerback is one of the best ways to combat this.
2014 Stats: 57 total tackles, 9 passes defended, 3 interceptions
If the Panthers want a long-term answer at cornerback, then Kareem Jackson should be the player they go after. However, he is going to be one of the most sought after free agents not named Byron Maxwell. He is only 26 years of age has five years of experience and only missed 6 games while in the NFL. Jackson is sure to command the biggest contract of any player on this list.
If the Panthers were able to land Jackson though, they would be set at the cornerback position seemingly for a long time. The trio of Jackson, Josh Norman (27 years old), and Bene Benwikere (23 years old) would provide the defense with a young nucleus who should only get better in the coming years.
2014 Stats: 53 total tackles, 18 passes defended, 5 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries
Perrish Cox is an interesting player and one that is tough to get a read on. He was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. The time in Denver was short-lived though as he was released the following season. He signed with the San Francisco 49ers in 2012 and was released in 2013. He then had a stop with the Seattle Seahawks for roughly two weeks before being released and then re-signed with the 49ers.
Last year though was the first chance he really got to be a starter and he played fairly well with five interceptions. Although four came in the first seven weeks of the season and his play seemed to tail off down the stretch. If the Panthers were to add a player like Perrish Cox, it would have to be with the mindset of him being a depth player with the potential to challenge for a starting role.