Originally published by HERO Sports:
Similar to Colin Kaepernick at the quarterback position, the most well-known defensive back in the 2017 NFL free-agency class is still unsigned as the preseason gets underway.
That DB would be Darrelle Revis, the future Hall of Fame cornerback whose swift drop-off from shutdown to sit-down last season compelled the New York Jets to release him following another failed attempt to make the playoffs. Although Revis is only 32 years old, the Super Bowl champion and seven-time Pro Bowler has reportedly received little interest on the free-agent market. And if he does find a team, he might be asked to move to safety to mask whatever loss of speed and cover skills he’s had.
While Revis remains out of work, there was a lot of offseason movement among defensive backs. Here are five veteran DBs who could make a big impact on their new teams this season:
A.J. BOUYE, CB — JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
As sudden and unexpected as Revis’ decline was last season, Bouye’s rise to prominence was just as swift and surprising.
Bouye was pretty much a special-teams guy with the Houston Texans before last season, when in his first campaign as a regular starter he broke up 16 passes and collected one interception during the regular season. In the playoffs, he had two interceptions in two games.
His timing was perfect, as Bouye hit free agency as one of the most coveted corners available. The Jaguars inked him to a five-year, $67.5 million deal, hoping Bouye and second-year stud Jalen Ramsey can form one of the league’s top cornerback tandems and bolster the team’s promising defensive unit.
TONY JEFFERSON, FS — BALTIMORE RAVENS
Like Bouye, Jefferson also burst onto the scene last season as one of the league’s best at his position, just in time to become a free agent and cash in on his success (and potential).
In his first season as a starter for the Arizona Cardinals, Jefferson posted 78 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He shined as a member of arguably the league’s most talented secondary alongside CB Patrick Peterson and multi-positional Tyrann Mathieu. In Baltimore, Jefferson will line up next to All-Pro strong safety Eric Weddle, flanked by a pair of solid corners in Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr.
Jefferson should help improve a Ravens defense that was top-10 in points and passing yards allowed last season, but ranked 20th in the league in opponent’s completion percentage and 24th in passing touchdowns allowed.
STEPHON GILMORE, CB — NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Yes, it looks like the reigning Super Bowl champions upgraded at a last a couple of need positions, and their AFC East rival Buffalo Bills helped supply some of the bodies they needed.
The Pats are replacing running back LaGarrette Blount (signed with the Eagles) with ex-Bills RB Mike Gillislee, who was impressive last season as LaSean McCoy’s backup. In the secondary, New England landed perhaps the top cornerback available in Gilmore, who will replace CB Logan Ryan (signed with the Titans).
Gilmore had five interceptions and 12 pass breakups for the Bills last season. While some analysts claimed he had a down year, he was named to his first Pro Bowl — so it couldn’t have been that bad. Gilmore isn’t as good overall as New England’s top cornerback, Malcolm Butler, but he is probably more of an athlete and very good in his own right.
JOHNATHAN CYPRIEN, SS — TENNESSEE TITANS
Cyprien racked up at least 100 tackles in each of his four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Now he takes his seek-and-destroy talents to one of the Jags’ AFC South division rivals. Tennessee made a point in the offseason to improve its defense, adding Cyprien as well as former Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan.
There has been talk that Cyprien, who is listed at about 225 pounds, could be used as a safety-linebacker hybrid in Tennessee; if not full-time then at least in certain defensive packages.
MORRIS CLAIBORNE, CB — NEW YORK JETS
Hoping to fill the void left by Revis (the good version of Revis), the Jets brought in Claiborne, who was once considered an NFL Draft bust before putting together a good — albeit injury-shortened — season in 2016.
Claiborne was the No. 6 overall pick in 2012 by the Dallas Cowboys, and between injuries and ineffectiveness, was kind of a disappointment for most of his first four seasons with the team. Last year, though, Claiborne looked like a shutdown corner for seven games until a groin injury ended his season.
With the Jets, Claiborne is reportedly going to play in more of a press man-to-man system than a zone scheme, which New York defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers recently said fits Claiborne better. If he stays healthy, the 27-year-old Claiborne can resurrect his career and perhaps become the star many thought he would be entering the league.
Honorable mention: Jason McCourty, CB (Browns); Logan Ryan, CB (Titans); Prince Amukamara, CB (Bears); Mike Adams, SS (Panthers).