3 Free Agent cornerbacks the Titans can replace Jackrabbit Jenkins with

According to multiple reports, the Tennessee Titans released veteran cornerback Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins from his contract on Tuesday morning. If you had read Zach’s article regarding how the Titans could create a plethora of cap space, you would have been aware that this move was always likely for the cash-strapped Titans. By releasing Jenkins, general manager Jon Robinson created an additional $6.9 million in cap space while relieving Tennessee of Jenkins’ $10.1 million cap hit in 2022. It qualified as a no-brainer despite Jenkins’ solid and consistent play throughout the crucial stretch of the season.

Jenkins’ release represents a big opportunity for former first-round selection Caleb Farley, who may now receive an opportunity to start on the boundary opposite the ascending Kristian Fulton. This was always the expectation given the draft capital invested into Farley’s selection, but Robinson would be wise to explore a capable backup plan given Farley’s lengthy and concerning injury history. Farley entered the NFL with persistent back issues, and a mid-season torn ACL further complicates his future. Torn ACL’s aren’t the career-ender they used to be, and Farley should ultimately recover in expected fashion.

It doesn’t mean Robinson doesn’t need to prepare for all outcomes. Jenkins’ loss leaves a sizable gap in Tennessee’s cornerback room, both in the veteran and proven playmaker department. As things stand, Fulton, Farley, Elijah Molden and Chris Jackson are Tennessee’s top four cornerbacks. All four cornerbacks were drafted within the past three drafts, and the Titans should look to add some outside experience to properly round out the room. For this reason alone, I expect Robinson to address the position by signing a veteran cover-man as opposed to spending more premium draft capital at cornerback in April.

That cornerback will have to carry a smaller cap hit and base salary than Jenkins would have in 2022 for obvious reasons. If Robinson was willing to spend that sort of money at the position, Tennessee would have simply kept Jenkins in the fold. The veteran cornerback was released for financial related purposes, as opposed to disappointing play.

With all of these factors in mind, I’ve identified three free-agent veteran cornerbacks Robinson may target on the open market to replace Jenkins.

Buster Skrine

Potential contract, courtesy of Broadway cap wizard @FWordsPod:

  • One-year contract with a base salary of $1.75 million
  • Signing bonus: $750,000
  • Potential 2022 Cap Hit: $2.5 million

The Titans signed Buster Skrine in late November as the team dealt with several injuries in the secondary (all over the defense, really). Skrine provided a shocking return on their low investment for an aging free agent cornerback that found himself still on the market midway through the regular season. Skrine recorded four tackles and his lone interception as a Titan in a dominant early December shutout victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Skrine earned an impressive and honorable coverage grade of 65.1 via Pro Football Focus while making six appearances for the Titans throughout the regular-season and playoffs.

Robinson should probably aim higher than Skrine, but he represents an intriguing, low-cost option as a cover-man that’s already thrived in your system and locker room. Vrabel has previously been complimentary of Skrine in relation to his leadership and work ethic qualities. The Titans can probably wait until July or August to make a decision on Skrine, should the soon-to-be-33-year-old-cornerback decide to continue his playing career in 2022. Tennessee needs a veteran backup option should Farley struggle to hold down a starting job, and Skrine proved plenty capable of giving the team quality snaps a year ago.

A.J. Bouye

Bouye was released by the Carolina Panthers earlier this week, and may sign with a new team of his choosing immediately. A 30-year-old cornerback that’s now well past the prime of his career, Bouye’s next franchise would be silly to believe they can recapture the form that once made him a Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro in 2017. Tennessee wouldn’t be relying on Bouye for that kind of production, and he’s fully capable as serving as the fourth or fifth cornerback on Tennessee’s depth chart.

Bouye previously spent four seasons with the Houston Texans (2013-16) with several coaches on Tennessee’s current staff. Head coach Mike Vrabel spent three seasons with Bouye in Houston, and defensive coordinator Shane Bowen spent Bouye’s final season in Houston (2016) as a defensive assistant alongside Vrabel. Furthermore, current Titans defensive backs coach Anthony Midget spent three seasons as Bouye’s assistant position coach. The Titans love signing former Texans, particularly in the secondary. Robinson has previously reunited Vrabel, Bowen and Midget with secondary defenders such as Johnathan Joseph and Kevin Johnson, and they signed another former Texans safety in A.J. Moore on Tuesday afternoon. Bouye possesses the veteran experience and connections the Titans even pursue when searching for quality depth signings.

Potential contract, courtesy of Broadway cap wizard @FWordsPod:

  • One-year contract with a base salary of $2.75 million
  • Signing bonus: $1 million
  • Potential 2022 Cap Hit: $3.75 million

Steven Nelson

Potential contract, courtesy of Broadway cap wizard @FWordsPod:

  • Two-year contract worth $7 million with $4.75 million in guarantees
  • 2022 Base Salary of $1.75 million, $1.5 million signing bonus and a cap hit of $3.25 million
  • 2023: $2.25 million base salary, $1.5 million signing bonus with a cap hit of $3.75 million. 2023 salary guarantees at the beginning of the 2023 new-league year.

Nelson is an extremely underrated and efficient veteran cornerback. Titans outside linebacker Bud Dupree attempted to recruit Nelson to Nashville last season before he signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. Dupree and Nelson know each other from their shared playing days (2019-20) with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Nelson has now reached the conclusion of his agreement with the Eagles and is free to sign with another team of his choosing.

Nelson is a tad undersized for the prototypical outside cornerback position but that hasn’t prevented him from enjoying an extremely consistent and impressive seven-year professional career. Nelson is a hard-nosed, physical defender that fits the tough-love culture Vrabel has done an excellent job installing in Tennessee. Jackrabbit Jenkins shared a similar physical profile and approach to the game, and Robinson prefers these types of feisty players at outside corner. Nelson would immediately fill an underrated hole in the wake of Jenkins’ release.

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