The NY Giants are in a tricky spot at the cornerback position, having invested numerous high picks in the position. Signing Mackenzie Alexander in free agency could give the unit an uplift without breaking the bank, or spending more picks.
With Byron Jones being the flavor of the week for NY Giants fans looking to solve the team’s cornerbacking woes, many have forgotten about Mackensie Alexander. It appears, most have forgotten that slot corner is actually a bigger need than outside corner for Big Blue.
Deandre Baker, Sam Beal, and Corey Ballentine all do their best work on the outside. Adding a true stud nickel corner into the mix would allow all of them to play their natural positions, without forcing one (like Ballentine last year) to play somewhere they’re not comfortable playing.
Effective slot corners are hard to find, and it’s far and away the toughest type of cornerback to project at the next level. Mackensie Alexander has totally revamped his career since being move to full-time in the slot and saw ascension every year since 2017 after the move.
One of the best aspects of Alexander’s game is surprisingly rushing the cornerback from the slot. As we’ve seen, some corners just have the timing to be able to be solid blitzers and some don’t. Cornerback blitzes tend to work much better overall from the slot as the corner has to cover less ground to reach the quarterback.
Alexander is also an extremely sure tackler, as according to Pro Football Focus he was the only defensive back in the entire NFL to play 500+ snaps and not miss a tackle in 2019. Tackling is a wildly undervalued trait for a cornerback, and having one that is a sure tackler gives a defensive coordinator to let that player get right up in his opponent’s face to press.
The former Third-Team All-American standout’s proficiency in coverage is in man-to-man, which is what you’d typically expect for a solid nickel.
A monster 2018 campaign in Minnesota put Alexander on the map in the NFL and for good reason. Alexander tallied 10 passes defended, 4 sacks, 7TFL and 5 QB hits – a rare type production from a defensive back.
Adding another versatile piece would be a huge boost for the NY Giants, who claim they want to be as versatile, adaptable and scheme fluid as any team in the league. The added possibilities Alexander brings as a blizter opens up the doors for all types of things and any defensive coordinator worth their salt could easily find a way to make it a huge advantage.
Now, the real question — what’ll it cost? It’s a question I’m not sure anyone really has the answer to, as NFL reporters and analysts have had his reported open market value slated all over the place. Some have speculated he’ll get as much as $10M APY, while Spotrac hypothesizing he’ll grab 3/$28M ($8.4 per) in free agency.
If the ladder is the range he actually ends up being paid in, sign me up. A 26-year-old player entering their prime with room for an even higher ceiling is the exact type of player a team should be targetting in a rebuild. Although Alexander’s production dipped a tad in 2019, there’s a legitimate case to be made that he’s got a whole ‘nother gear he’s capable of reaching.
Many NY Giants fans have tossed around only the biggest names on the market in free agency, and that’s understandable. With as much cap space as the team has, it’s reasonable to think the team could come away with at least one of the top players in free agency.
However, Dave Gettleman and company need to have backup plans and a lot of ’em. As we saw with the NY Knicks last summer, things can go haywire quickly when your plans A, B, and C don’t work, which is always a possibility here. Much like my earlier speculation on Ziggy Ansah, the team should have second-level guys with untapped potential that are scheme fits on their list.
Mackenzie Alexander fits that description.
Hypothetical Offer: 4 years, $26M ($17M GTD)