Cornerbacks have been one of the more inconsistent positions from a value standpoint in recent years. Some years, the top players seem to get these huge contract extensions that shatter the records, and in others, it seems like nobody wants to pay them.
Many think corners have the toughest job of any player on the field due to the amount of reading and reacting that comes with the all-out speed at which they have to be running. Either way, a good corner can shut down an entire side of the field, and the top players have been rewarded. Most importantly, there's almost always a team looking for depth at the position.
This year, the free-agent market will be offering slightly more than depth, however, as multiple big names will be looking for new teams in March. We'll take a look at the top corners below:
Verner is in-line for a significant payday this offseason. He's been vocal about wanting a big deal, and has said he's "not afraid" to test the free-agent market. He wants to return to Tennessee, but whether or not it works out that way is anyone's guess. He was named to the Pro Bowl this past season, and had five interceptions to go with a whopping 23 passes defensed. Tennessee just gave Jason McCourty a big extension so Verner may be playing elsewhere next year.
Talib is yet another Pro Bowler set to hit the open market. He took a one-year deal with the New England Patriots, as opposed to a multi-year deal elsewhere, and the results were solid. New England won multiple games on the back of a strong defense as opposed to Tom Brady's arm this season. Talib had four interceptions. Talib comes with injury concerns, which played a factor in him not getting a bigger deal before the 2013 season.
Davis has been up and down in his short career, always talking bigger talk than he's been able to deliver on the field. After a relatively quiet -- in the media -- offseason, Davis went on to have a strong 2013 campaign. The Colts gave up a second-round pick to acquire Davis, and he was a big factor in the team's success this season. They had the No. 13 pass defense in the NFL, allowing 231.9 passing yards per game -- Davis was the crux of their formula.
Grimes sustained an Achilles injury in 2012 and came to the Miami Dolphins on a modest one-year contract, but he's been one of the best cornerbacks in the league this past season. Grimes wasn't enough to lead the Dolphins to the playoffs, but he definitely did his part. He had 60 tackles and four interceptions, but most importantly: He didn't allow a touchdown all season. The biggest issue for Grimes is that he'll be 31 years old when next season gets underway and teams will be hesitant to give him the lengthy contract for which he'll be looking.
Rodgers-Cromartie has had an up-and-down career thus far. The 28-year-old cornerback started off well before crashing and burning with his last team, but playing on a short contract with Denver has revitalized him. He was among the top cornerbacks in the league this past season, putting up solid numbers as a cover corner. He'll be in-line for a modest payday at his age, but should get the multi-year deal he wants. With Harris also hitting free agency (restricted free agency), it will be interesting to see how Denver handles this one.
Shields is only 26, and he's coming off the best season of his career with 61 tackles and four interceptions. Opposing quarterbacks completed just 50 percent of their passes when throwing in Shields' direction, according to Pro Football Focus. The Packers are deep at corner but not long on cap space, so Shields is probably going to be plying his trade elsewhere.
This past season was Munnerlyn's coming out party in the secondary. He was always a solid player on special teams and a good enough tackler, but he didn't start really excelling in coverage until this year. Munnerlyn signed a one-year deal this past offseason and has more than earned a long-term contract, but it probably won't be at a high dollar amount. Expect him to earn a three- or four-year deal at a reasonable rate.
Brown has really come into his own over the past few seasons. He's a solid press corner who has a penchant for making big plays when the ball is in the air, but is more of a swatter than a guy who's going to get multiple interceptions. He also has occasional injury concerns and he's just not all that consistent with his play. He might mean more to the 49ers than to other teams, and they should be looking to bring him back.
Thurmond had a solid season, but it was marred by a four-game suspension. When he came back, he had more responsibilities due to Brandon Browner's own suspension. Thurmond has played well in his expanded role, and was solid in the playoffs as well. He's overlooked because he's not on the level of Browner, Richard Sherman or even Byron Maxwell, but at 26 years old (he'll be 27 when next season begins), there's a lot of potential to grow.
10. Corey Graham (Baltimore Ravens)
Graham's been an important part of Baltimore's secondary for two seasons, getting plenty of starting work thanks to injuries on the roster. He's made the most of it. Graham has 134 tackles and six interceptions over the last two seasons.
Other notable names
Blackmon is a solid nickel corner, who can cover the faster receivers well. He's also a solid return man, but this season, he definitely picked up his game in the secondary. He had one interception and contributed to what was a surprisingly strong group of corners in Jacksonville. He's not going to receive a big contract, but he should get more than what he received on a one-year contract with Jacksonville.
It's hard to count on player who can't stay healthy, and that's been Cook's biggest impediment to establishing himself. He played 12 games with the Vikes last year, a career high. An increased demand for bigger corners could get him some looks on a prove-it deal.
A mainstay of the Bears defense for the last 11 years, Peanut may be on the verge of his contract with another team. Could that mean a reunion with Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay? Peanut couldn't stay healthy last season, and at 33 this season, he's not a long-term solution.
At 33, Samuel's well past his prime. His ballhawking ways were a career hallmark, but he had just one pick in 11 games with Atlanta last year.
Drayton Florence (Carolina Panthers)
Florence signed a one-year deal with the Panthers last season and wound up starting five games. The 33-year-old remains a solid nickel corner. He should draw interest from teams searching for depth, and possibly even as a starter.
After starting 10 games during his first five seasons in the NFL, McBride started 10 games last season for New York. He set a career-high with 15 pass deflections, more than double his career total. It was an impressive year for a guy who was out of the league in 2012 and he should cash in with a more lucrative deal this season.
The veteran signed a one-year deal with Detroit last season. He wound up starting 13 games and played very well, regaining some of the form from earlier in his career. He didn't intercept a pass, but did defend 16 passes.
Ghee didn't play much last season, only 80 snaps according to Pro Football Focus. When he did play, he performed well, including five pass deflections. Ghee's playing time was limited by injury and injuries have limited him throughout his career. As a result, he may be forced to sign a short-term deal to prove he can stay healthy.
The 34-year-old played a limited role for the Broncos last season. After starting nearly every game for 10 seasons, Jammer made just one start last year. He was a healthy scratch in the Super Bowl, but could draw interest from teams looking to add some depth in the secondary.