Free-agent targets who could bolster the Cardinals cornerback room

Aug 26, 2022, 1:19 PM | Updated: 1:21 pm

Robert Alford #23 of the Arizona Cardinals signals to the crowd after a fourth down stop during the...

Robert Alford #23 of the Arizona Cardinals signals to the crowd after a fourth down stop during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

(Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

With the NFL season two weeks away, the Arizona Cardinals have the 27th-ranked secondary, according to Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus.

This is in large part because their cornerback room that leaves much to be desired. The unit consists of clear No. 1 cornerback Byron Murphy, as well as potential starters Marco Wilson and Antonio Hamilton.

However, Hamilton could miss time to begin the season, and head coach Kliff Kingsbury didn’t provide much in the way of optimism surrounding his undisclosed injury.

“We’ll let you know Week 1 when we have to (put it in the injury report),” Kingsbury told reporters in Tennesse this week.

Thus, casting even more uncertainty surrounding an already low-ranked Cardinals secondary.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo reported that the team is pursuing a trade for a cornerback, so there’s a sense of urgency to improve the position. That said, there are many veterans still available in free agency who won’t cost the Cardinals future assets to obtain.

Who are some of them?

Robert Alford

Alford spent the past three seasons in the desert. While two of them were lost to injuries, he played 13 games in 2021. According to Football Reference, quarterbacks were 32-for-56 for 290 yards, three touchdowns and one interception when targeting him.

Quarterbacks had a passer rating of 81.7 when targeting him. For reference, former Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield had an 83.7 passer rating last season, which was 28th among quarterbacks that made at least six starts.

While Alford isn’t an All-Pro or even a Pro-Bowl-level corner, he has familiarity with the team and system defensive coordinator Vance Joseph runs. As far as possible additions go, he has the least to learn, making him more likely to make an immediate impact.

A.J. Bouye

The one-time Pro Bowl corner hasn’t performed to that standard since his selection in 2017, but he’s one of the most-decorated names still available.

Last season, the 31-year-old played 10 games for the Carolina Panthers. According to Football Reference, quarterbacks had a 91.0 passer rating when targeting him, completing 72.1% of passes for 298 yards and no interceptions. However, quarterbacks also had no touchdowns targeting Bouye.

Perhaps settling into a role as the No. 2 or 3 corner on a team coming off a postseason berth can elevate Bouye’s performance. Regardless, he’d still help raise the floor of the Cardinals’ cornerback room.

Kevin King

King wasn’t a popular name in Green Bay given the talent still available in the 2017 draft when he was picked. However, he was the 33rd overall pick for a reason.

At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, King is a big-bodied defensive back with very good speed –– 4.43-second 40-yard time in the combine. Perhaps a change of scenery could be beneficial to the 27-year-old, who struggled the last two seasons with the Packers.

As far as his ceiling goes, it’s hard to imagine he reaches a level equivalent to his No. 33 overall draft position, but if he rounds into a solid No. 3 corner, that goes a long way in helping Arizona’s chances in 2022.

Chris Harris

The 33-year-old isn’t the same caliber defensive back he was in Denver when he made three-straight Pro Bowls and four out of five (2014 to 2016, 2018). That said, he could flourish as a leader on a team whose oldest cornerback is the 29-year-old Hamilton.

This isn’t to say he can’t still play at a high level. Last season, Harris allowed only 7.4 yards per target, according to Football Reference and allowed a 93.4 passer rating when targeted. He only made one interception and allowed three scores on 55 targets but gave up similar yards per target as Murphy.

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