The NY Giants ended an uneventful day one of free agency by signing cornerback James Bradberry to a lucrative deal. Is the young player worth the price they paid?
When I profiled James Bradberry leading up to free agency I noted that he was one of the more difficult players to evaluate and get a read on in the entire class. The NY Giants surely have a need for a number one corner, and while Bradberry does fit that need, the team surely paid a high price for his services.
In terms of average salary per year, James Bradberry will now become only the third cornerback in the NFL to exceed $15M per year, joining Miami Dolphins corners Byron Jones (as of today) and Xavien Howard in that club. At the surface, is Bradberry a top-three cornerback in the NFL? For sure not.
However, it’s not as black and white as that. When the other better players behind him come up in free agency, they’ll obviously surpass him. Bradberry hit the market at an opportune time where the NFL is short on talent at cornerback and while he’s entering the prime of his career.
The former second-round draft pick out of Samford University had begun to make a name for himself with the Carolina Panthers over the past few seasons. Playing cornerback in the NFC South is as tough as an assignment as one could hope for, as a team’s #1 corner (like Bradberry) has to deal with Julio Jones, Mike Evans and Michael Thomas six times per season.
Bradberry’s results last season were more than admirable. Standing at 6’1 and weighing in at 211 pounds, he has the size to matchup with these types of specimens in one-on-one coverage. Only twice did Bradberry allow more than 80 yards against him in 2019, and it was against Mike Evans (101) and Michael Thomas (87 – which took him 10 cathes to do so). That’s impressive.
He also only allowed an 86.7 quarterback rating against him while giving up just 59% of passes completed — both below league average. He has the size and skillset to be a number one cornerback, which is something the NY Giants badly need.
His presence will take a ton of pressure of struggling rookie Deandre Baker, who truth be told never had the size (or speed) to be a top cornerback in the NFL. Baker profiles to be more of a number two corner who could use some help over the top against bigger receivers, which is exactly what he’ll get now that Bradberry’s coming to town.
There’s plenty to like about Bradberry outside of his cap number, including that he’s very young (26), coming off his rookie deal and entering the prime of his career — all things I said I wanted our free-agent targets to have. His size and athleticism are well-above league average, and he’ll have a much easier time playing in the NFC East.
One other possible negative is that he’s a former Dave Gettleman draft pick, and as we’ve seen a few times over the past few years here, the Giants have been burned by players that coaches or executives have a history with. Hopefully, this time it’s the opposite and Gettleman has some inside info on the player that Bradberry can and will be.
Overall, I think it’s very fair to love the player and be unsure about the cap number. In further regards to the cap number, it’s worth noting that this deal is only for three years and $45M in total. With $32M guaranteed, you’d think the Giants would have a potential out after two years if things don’t go well.
So, in that sense, Gettleman actually did well in not throwing a bunch of years or guaranteed money at Bradberry. Still, $15M per year is a lot of money to throw at a player that’s never sniffed a Pro Bowl or All-Pro team, but free agency is more about paying for what’s to come rather than what’s happened.
With the trajectory that Bradberry’s been on, hopefully that’s an All-Pro level in the near future.
Total contract value: 3 years/$45M ($32M GTD)