The Washington Commanders don’t have a ton of cap space to work with, but their reported interest in signing Patrick Peterson proves they’re still open to adding outside free agents, so long as they come at the right price.
Given Peterson re-signed with the Vikings on a team-friendly deal (one year with a $4 million base value, $3.5 million guaranteed with an another $1 million available in incentives), we now have a good idea what Washington is willing to spend.
With that said, we like to think the Commanders would extend themselves a little more for a younger player, as Peterson will turn 32 in July. Either way, it’s clear the front office is looking for reinforcements at cornerback and there’s still plenty of pedigree hanging around in free agency.
With that in mind, let’s highlight a trio of potential targets who’d fall under Washington’s expected spending budget.
3 free agent cornerback targets for the Commanders
3. Kyle Fuller
Kyle Fuller is on the one cornerback on this list who would benefit the most from a change of scenery. Already taking on one reclamation project in Carson Wentz, the Commanders should be open to another in Fuller, who’s endured a fall from grace in recent years after being an All-Pro in 2018 and a Pro Bowler in 2019.
What better spot for the Maryland native to get back on track than in Washington playing alongside his brother Kendall?
At 30 years old, Fuller’s best days are behind him, but he has plenty of juice left in tank having played at least 16 games in every season of his career. His 40.8 coverage grade from PFF last season is cause for concern, but he posted a 72.9 grade in that regard over the previous four years, so we’re willing to bet that a change of scenery (and scheme) will see him return to form.
Given his recent struggles, Fuller will likely be available at a discount and that aligns perfectly with the Commanders’ financial situation, as they currently have less than $11 million in cap space. Assuming he’s willing to take a hometown (and sibling) discount, Washington should be all over signing Fuller after missing out on Peterson.
2. Steven Nelson
A former third-round pick of the Chiefs back in 2015, Nelson most recently played for the Eagles last season. Of his 98 career games, he’s started 84 of them, so he’d bring experience to Washington’s secondary that currently lacks it behind Kendall Fuller and William Jackson III.
Nelson’s 2021 statistics won’t wow anyone, but that can be attributed to the fact he started opposite shutdown corner Darius Slay. That saw Nelson receive a massive volume of targets in coverage, and he, to his credit, held up well.
In fact, Nelson’s 62.9 player grade from PFF ranked 57th among cornerbacks (not bad for a No. 2 option) and he parlayed that into an impressive 70.6 run defense grade, which is a valued quality for defensive backs. In coverage, he allowed a 68.8% reception rate over 64 targets and was responsible for four touchdowns.
Not crazy numbers by any stretch, but serviceable for a likely third option. It’s also worth noting Nelson’s arms rank in the 12th percentile at the position, so that could explain why he’s only made eight interceptions in his seven-year career.
At the end of the day, Nelson is solid in coverage and he’s fared better in zone schemes throughout his career. We all know Jack Del Rio likes to run a zone, so the former Eagles starter makes sense as a potential target.
1. Bryce Callahan
The Broncos have made some notable tweaks to their defense and Bryce Callahan doesn’t seem like he’s a part of their plans. With Patrick Surtain already making a case for himself as an elite cornerback, and Ronald Darby and free agent signing K’waun Williams behind him, Callahan could be playing elsewhere in 2022.
Securing Callahan’s services on the open market would be a big win for the Commanders, as it’s tough to identify a flaw in his game. In fact, the only knock we have against him is that he’s struggled to stay on the field. He’s never started 16 games in his career and missed a chunk of 2021 with a left knee injury.
Assuming he’s waiting for a clean bill of health from doctors to start negotiating with potential suitors, expect Callahan’s market to heat up very soon. Despite his durability concerns, he’s everything you could want in a rotational CB.
Since 2017, the former undrafted free agent owns a 78.3 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus and has allowed a combined 75.3 passer rating. He played like an All-Pro in 2020, notching an 86.7 player grade. Between 2020 and 2021, he allowed a completion percentage of 54.4% and 56.8%, respectively.
Listed at 5-foot-9, Callahan plays much bigger than his size and is capable of playing on the boundary or kicking inside in the slot. His best season came in 2020 when he lined up outside, so don’t let his height trick you into thinking he can’t hold his own against bigger-bodied X receivers.
The longer Callahan remains a free agent, the more likely it is Denver kicks the tires on-resigning him, so Washington better get a move on.
Honorable mentions: Xavier Rhodes, AJ Bouye, PJ Williams, Mackensie Alexander, Kevin King, Robert Alford and Joe Haden.