NFL free-agent preview: Cornerbacks

A couple of the top cornerbacks received the franchise tag, but there is plenty of talent set to hit the free-agent market.

One of the hottest positions in free agency, cornerback, has some potential to be a strong market for those ready to hit the streets in search of a lucrative contract. During the two-plus days of the negotiating period, some of the top ones were garnering interest.

JOSH NORMAN, CAROLINA

Sorry, suitors. The Carolina Panthers were well aware of the immense attention Josh Norman would have generated in free agency. Now if you want him and you’ll have to pony up a huge contract AND two first-round picks after he was wisely and logically given the franchise tag. Working his way up the NFL chain of command, he has turned into not only a full-time, reliable starter, but one of the best in the league after four years. He’s not as strong against the run as some others, but he’s paid to cover receivers and does that extremely well.

SEAN SMITH, KANSAS CITY

The Kansas City Chiefs would like to retain Sean Smith, but they reportedly only made him a “conservative” offer and that’s not likely to get it done in a league flush with money. The Oakland Raiders, one of the top teams as far as cap money to spend, are making a strong play for him. Smith has been a full-time starter since entering the league in 2009 and is equally effective playing the run or the pass. He’s never had more than two interceptions in a season, but he’s regularly providing tight coverage.

JANORIS JENKINS, LOS ANGELES

Janoris Jenkins is a confident cornerback, for good reason. He isn’t the biggest cornerback at 5-foot-10, but he’s not afraid to get physical and it shows in his play against the run. He averages about 60 tackles a year and had 15 passes defensed and three interceptions. No doubt the Los Angeles Rams would like to retain him, but he’s likely to garner solid interest in free agency, too.

ADAM JONES, CINCINNATI

For the last three seasons, Adam Jones has three interceptions in each of them. While he will turn 33 during the 2016 season, he still has several good years left in him and says he is finally figuring out how to be a professional. Talent was never a question; staying on the field was, as he missed the 2007 and 2009 seasons. However, the last three years he has played in 14 or more games, and last year he had 62 tackles, 12 passes defensed and three interceptions for the Cincinnati Bengals. He has already drawn interest from a few outside teams during the negotiating period.

TRUMAINE JOHNSON, LOS ANGELES

The Rams have the unfortunate situation of having two of the top five free-agent cornerbacks. They favored Trumaine Johnson over Jenkins, giving Johnson the franchise tag, which he signed in order to try to negotiate a long-term deal. With that tag, he will remain with the Rams after an impressive seven-interception season.

In addition to the top five, there are numerous other cornerbacks in free agency qualified to start around the NFL, including Casey Hayward and Prince Amukamara.

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