Ranking the available free agent cornerbacks for Cowboys in 2023
By Jerry Trotta
The Dallas Cowboys defense showed out in the playoffs, but the front office should be motivated to upgrade Dan Quinn’s personnel. While there isn’t a ton of cap space floating around, cornerback isn’t a position the Cowboys can afford to pinch their pennies on — unless, of course, they draft a stud in the first round.
Before the draft, though, is free agency, and it would behoove Dallas to peruse the market for reinforcements now that starter Anthony Brown is a free agent, and fellow starter Jourdan Lewis could become a cap casualty.
Though over-aggressive at times, Trevon Diggs is cemented as an elite player at the position, and DaRon Bland has a bright future after he finished tied for second in the NFL with five interceptions despite logging a 52% snap share.
Behind Diggs and Bland, though, it starts getting dicey.
Kelvin Joseph has contributed more on special teams than at corner, and looks the part of a mistake-prone player, while Nahshon Wright was a surprise healthy scratch in Dallas’ Wild Card victory against the Buccaneers.
With all of this in mind, let’s go ahead and rank the top available free agent cornerbacks the Cowboys could target this offseason.
Ranking available free agent cornerbacks for Cowboys in 2023
James Bradberry, Eagles
It was Bradberry’s penalty that cost the Eagles a chance at tying/winning the Super Bowl late in the fourth quarter, that shouldn’t paper over what was another great season from Bradberry. Per PFF, his 46.0% completion rate allowed ranked fourth at the position, and his 19 forced incompletions ranked second. He’s also logged 1,000 or more snaps in four straight seasons. There should be a huge market for his services this offseason.
Jamel Dean, Buccaneers
Dean is like Diggs in that he’s interception-hungry and likes jumping routes, but he’s arguably just as good in coverage. In fact, Dean has earned a PFF coverage grade above 75.0 in each of his four seasons. In 2022, he allowed a 50% completion rate and a 81.3 passer rating, while intercepting two passes. With Carlton Davis locked up on a three-year deal, the Bucs will likely allow Dean to test the free agent waters.
Cam Sutton, Steelers
Sutton is one of the NFL’s best-kept secrets. The fifth-year defender allowed just 411 receiving yards this past season; good for the ninth-fewest among cornerbacks that logged at least 400 coverage snaps. Sutton’s started at least 15 games in each of the last five seasons, and has the ability to line up in the slot when called upon. That versatility will have several teams interested once free agency opens.
Jonathan Jones, Patriots
Jones has been one of the league’s most consistent cornerbacks for three years. He moved outside for the first time in his career in 2022, dominating in the first half before bigger receivers exploited his size (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) in the final six games. Jones isn’t your prototypical No. 1 corner, but he’s an elite No. 2 option who can kick inside in a pinch and hold his own against shifty slot receivers.
Patrick Peterson, Vikings
Apparently, Peterson has plenty left in the tank at 32 years old. His 80.7 player grade this season was the second-best of his career. Per PFF, he intercepted an impossible 6.9% of passes when targeted and his 82.0 coverage grade trailed only Sauce Gardner, Patrick Surtain, and Jaire Alexander for the best in the NFL. For good measure, Peterson’s 15 passes defended tied for fifth among cornerbacks. Teams can do a lot worse than sign Peterson to a one- or two-year contract.
Rock Ya-Sin, Raiders
Ya-Sin is one of the top “young” cornerbacks set to hit the market this offseason. Ya-Sin was traded from the Colts to the Raiders in 2022, and picked up right where he left off in Indianapolis. Over the last two seasons, he owns a 74.4 coverage grade (27th among cornerbacks, per PFF), and he excels in press coverage. A stud No. 2 cornerback if we’ve ever seen one, Ya-Sin only allowed one touchdown in coverage last season, and owns a 18.2% forced incompletion rate since the start of 2021.
Marcus Peters, Ravens
Coming back from ACL surgery, it took a while for Peters to round into form last season. Once he back up to speed, he delivered quality cornerback play. That’s been the standard for Peters throughout his career (two first-team All-Pro nods). Now 30 years old and having navigated a series of leg/knee injuries in recent years, he’s best served as a No. 2 cornerback … perhaps in Dallas next to Diggs.
Which one of the studs do you want the Cowboys to pursue?