Last Friday, the Kansas City Chiefs jettisoned cornerback Brandon Flowers, sending minor shockwaves through the league. Though not entirely unexpected, the release of a 28-year-old Pro Bowler in June isn't something you see very often. There's already a line of interested teams forming.
Keep in mind that Flowers' Pro Bowl selection from last season is somewhat misleading. He actually had one of his worst seasons as a pro, grading out as the 87th best corner in the league by Pro Football Focus. In the four years previous, however, he finished no lower than seventh on that list. One plausible explanation for his struggles in 2013 is an incompatibility with the Chiefs' new man coverage defensive scheme. Flowers struggles in physical one-on-one situations, and was relegated to the slot position by season's end.
Given his age and previous production, Flowers is still a hot commodity on the open market, especially this late in the offseason. We break down five teams that could end up signing him, listed in order of likelihood.
Falcons assistant GM Scott Pioli has already paid Flowers once and he's reportedly considering doing it again. Pioli was the Chiefs' GM when they handed Flowers a big extension in 2011. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported over the weekend that the Falcons had been monitoring Flowers' situation in Kansas City and were preparing in case he was cut.
Atlanta could use a veteran corner to supplement Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, and with over $9 million in cap space, they have the cash to do it. The way Falcons blog The Falcoholic sees it, Flowers could play outside opposite of Trufant, with Alford sliding into the slot and Robert McClain dropping into the dime position.
On the same day that the Chiefs dropped Flowers, the Lions released Chris Houston, the veteran corner who was heading into training camp as the team's top option at the position. So there's definitely a need in Detroit. Throw in the fact that Wilson claims the Lions have reached out to Flowers and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says they're "seriously considering making a run" at him, and Detroit is a very realistic landing spot.
Here's the problem: the Lions may not be able to afford him. They have just $2.063 million in cap space, second lowest in the league.
There's been no explicit link between Flowers and the Texans, but keep in mind that Houston defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel coached Flowers in Kansas City. One starting member of the Chiefs' 2013 secondary has already joined Crennel in Houston: safety Kendrick Lewis. Starter Johnathan Joseph has battled injury problems in recent years and Kareem Jackson is entering the final year of his contract, so adding Flowers makes sense.
The Ravens have been in contact with Flowers and have a need for a reliable nickel corner. The team is trying to replace Corey Graham, who signed with the Buffalo Bills in March, but would prefer to do so internally. Wilson reports Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson will get first crack at the nickel spot, though the Ravens would like to bring in competition for them. Baltimore only has $4.742 million worth of available cap space, so signing a high-profile player like Flowers for the sake of competition doesn't make sense. If they lack confidence in Brown and Jackson, though, they might be willing to find the money.
Less than 24 hours after the release, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com reported that the Vikings had placed a call to the Flowers camp expressing interest. The interest is warranted when you consider that Minnesota ranked second to last in pass defense last season and is riddled with depth issues behind recent acquisition Captain Munnerlyn and second-year man Xavier Rhodes.
Here's the problem: the Vikings are expected to switch over to a more physical, man coverage scheme in 2014 -- the same kind of scheme that landed Flowers in the slot last year. Munnerlyn has that nickel spot locked up in Minnesota, so it's unclear if Flowers really has a role on this team.