On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Rams placed the franchise tag on cornerback Trumaine Johnson, keeping him around for at least the 2016 season as they work on a long-term deal. With the tagging of Johnson, however, the Rams are likely to let their other cornerback, Janoris Jenkins, hit free agency.
Jenkins already isn't happy with the negotiations with the Rams and even called them "disrespectful" a few days ago, so the reality is that he likely won't be back with the Rams. He's likely to hit the open market, therefore, and the Indianapolis Colts need to find a number two cornerback to play alongside Vontae Davis. Should they pursue Jenkins to fill that role?
By all indications, Jenkins is one of the best young cornerbacks in the NFL today. Drafted by the Rams in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Jenkins has played in 60 games over the past four seasons (starting 58), recording 257 tackles, a sack, 48 passes defensed, ten interceptions (five returned for touchdowns), and three forced fumbles. Jenkins had off-the-field issues in college, but he has proven to be a very good cornerback.
The Colts, meanwhile, need another corner. Greg Toler is almost certainly gone, and either way the team needs to upgrade at the position anyway. The top in-house candidate to fill in, D'Joun Smith, hardly played at all last year due to injuries in his rookie season. The Colts really like Smith, but at this point we simply don't know whether he can handle the starting corner duties - but we know that Janoris Jenkins can.
While it would be nice to pair two talented corners like Vontae Davis and Janoris Jenkins in Indianapolis, it's probably not going to be a reality. Simply put, it's probably not financially feasible for the Colts. An ESPN report suggested that the Rams were believed to be offering somewhere around $7-8 million per year while Jenkins wants at least $10.5 million per year. Spotrac agrees with Jenkins on that, as they project his market value to be just above that $10.5 million per year mark, projecting a five-year, $52,553,795 deal. The Colts, meanwhile, will have $25 million in cap room to work with, plus more if they move on from players such as Andre Johnson and Trent Cole. So from that standpoint, the Colts certainly could make it work with Jenkins. But when considering signing Jenkins, we have to also consider the other moves the Colts would like to make. We know they'd like to re-sign Adam Vinatieri and one of the tight ends, plus perhaps Jerrell Freeman and/or Dwight Lowery. They also want to reach a long-term extension with Andrew Luck this offseason, need to have money to sign their draft class, and have several other holes to fill. The offensive line and pass rush are the two biggest ones that the team talked about at the NFL Combine, and devoting so much money to Jenkins would likely mean that the Colts compromise on one or both of those needs. And while adding a corner like Jenkins would absolutely help the secondary, Chuck Pagano has mentioned that the secondary needs a good pass rush to help them out - something the Colts don't have.
With teams like the Jaguars rolling in cap space, the Colts likely won't be able to sign Janoris Jenkins and still address the needs that we all know they need to. D'Joun Smith likely factors into this picture as well, as the question becomes whether the Colts have enough confidence in him to bring in a free agent corner worth considerably less money to compete with Smith, or whether the team thinks they have to go out and add a sure-fire starter. I'd consider the first option to be the far more likely, as I simply don't think it's financially feasible for the Colts to go after Janoris Jenkins considering the other holes on the roster already.