The Indianapolis Colts recently released starting cornerback Pierre Desir, who was quickly signed by the New York Jets.
Desir was a quality 3-year starter for the Colts, the lone veteran in their cornerback corps, and collectively, one of the team’s leaders in the locker room—and the community at-large.
Right now, the Colts have a pair of projected 2nd-year pros starting on the outside: Rock Ya-Sin and Marvell Tell—with Kenny Moore manning the slot, meaning that adding a rookie as Desir’s primary replacement may not make the most sense for an already green group.
While the first wave of free agency has already occurred, there are a few starting cornerback options still available for the Colts who could help fill Desir’s veteran void:
Logan Ryan, Tennessee Titans
Originally a 3rd round pick of the New England Patriots in the 2013 NFL Draft, the 5’11”, 195 pound cornerback played his first four seasons for head coach Bill Belichick before taking his talents to the Tennessee Titans in free agency—as part of a 3-year, $30 million deal.
Ryan has played his last three seasons for Tennessee, making 45 starts.
He’s coming off a good season for the Titans, in which he recorded 113 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 18 passes defensed, 4 forced fumbles, and 4 interceptions in all 16 starts.
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription), the 29 year old veteran cornerback was their 73rd best cornerback with a +64.9 grade overall.
Ryan is still a solid veteran corner, but the issue with him joining the Colts is that he’s predominantly a slot cornerback (448 slot coverage snaps in 2019)—and the Colts already have one of the league’s best there, Kenny Moore.
Still, maybe if the veteran is open to transitioning to the outside, there could be a fit here.
Ronald Darby, Philadelphia Eagles
Having been selected by the Buffalo Bills in the 2nd round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the 5’11”, 193 pound cornerback has made 56 career starts—including 27 starts over the last three years with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The 26 year old had a down season for his normal high quality standards in 2019, recording 37 tackles, 11 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions in 11 starts—as he missed time with a hamstring and hip injury.
Per Pro Football Focus, Darby was just their 190th rated cornerback with a +45.9 grade overall this past season. However, he had received above average grades in his four prior seasons—having never fared lower than +68.3 overall (2016).
Darby is the youngest cornerback on this list, and he has had a track history of positive performances—despite his down year in 2019.
The hope would be that if fully healthy, the 6-year veteran could have a rebound season in 2020 and regain his prior quality form.
Bashaud Breeland, Kansas City Chiefs
The former 4th round pick of the Washington Redskins has also spent time with the Green Bay Packers before latching on with the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs in 2019.
The 28 year old cornerback has made 78 career starts.
He’s fresh off a season for the Chiefs in which he recorded 48 tackles, 8 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions in 15 starts. Per Pro Football Focus, Breeland was their 182nd rated cornerback with a +48.3 overall grade.
Breeland visited the Colts twice as a free agent in 2018, but left without a contract—as he was still recovering from a nasty infected foot cut.
His upside is probably a little less than some of the others on this list.
However, in 2020, could a third time be the charm with the Colts and the veteran cornerback?
Prince Amukamara, Chicago Bears
Initially a 2011 first round pick of the New York Giants, the knock on Amukamara earlier in his career was that while he was talented, he was wasn’t very durable—having missed a number of starts.
Since then, Amukamara had a sole season with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2016) before spending the past two years with the Chicago Bears.
During his two-year stint with the Bears, Amukamara has made 30 total starts—alleviating some of the durability concerns he had earlier in his career.
The 10-year veteran has made 99 career starts—including 15 starts for the Bears last season, where he recorded 53 tackles, 10 passes defensed, and a forced fumble.
Per Pro Football Focus, Amukamara was their 52nd best rated cornerback with a +68.2 grade overall, and he’s graded above average in his last 8 seasons since his rookie year.
At age 30, Amukamara could be a solid starting veteran stopgap for the Colts secondary at cornerback—as he’s been a quality starter throughout his entire career (when healthy).
However, despite his dependable coverage, he doesn’t generate many turnovers—with only 3 interceptions in his last three seasons combined.
Xavier Rhodes, Minnesota Vikings
The recently released 2013 first round pick of the Minnesota Vikings has had the best pro career to-date of any cornerback on this list—as a former 1st-Team All-Pro and 3x NFL Pro Bowler, but after a disastrous 2019 campaign, perhaps the biggest ‘fall from grace’.
Colts fans may remember that Rhodes was selected just a pick later after the team selected pass rushing bust Bjoern Werner in the 2013 NFL Draft with the 24th overall pick—so maybe this is a chance to finally ‘get it right’ for Indianapolis.
The 6’1”, 218 pound Rhodes has made 97 career starts over his first 7 seven seasons—all with the Vikings.
He had 63 tackles, 6 passes defensed, and a forced fumble in 15 starts for the Vikings defense last season.
While Rhodes was once a ‘shutdown cornerback’—earning All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors, he hasn’t been that same star over the past two seasons. He had a truly dismal 2019, in which he received a +46.4 grade overall—best for 187th at his entire position.
The hope would be that with a much needed change of scenery, Rhodes could return to his old self and become a lockdown starting cornerback once again—as still only 29 years old, he figures to have some juice left in the tank and the prior success to fall upon.