The St. Louis Rams have released veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan, which has opened up a new possibility for the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency.
Finnegan himself beat the national media to the punch about the report:
— Cortland Finnegan (@CortFinnegan) March 5, 2014
Before anyone scoffs at the idea of Finnegan joining the Bengals, one has to understand the particulars of the situation.
For one, Finnegan, 30, is coming off a miserable year after being made one of the highest-paid corners in NFL history by the Rams in 2012. In fact, Finnegan was so bad in 2013 over the course of seven games before hitting injured reserve with an eye injury that the Rams cut him just to save $4 million in cap space.
Now understand the market. Free agency is a fraud — with rookies so cheap under the new CBA, teams are simply not doling out big money to marquee players anymore, with the rare exception being Mike Wallace (But as we all know, Miami has a few issues from top to bottom).
Case in point — Brent Grimes was one of the best corners in football coming off an injury, but was forced to sign a one-year, $5.5 million contract in 2013 on a “prove-it” deal. After proving it as one of the best in football, Grimes eventually earned a four-year deal worth $32 million total.
Let’s look at another example. Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett recorded nine sacks in 16 games with Tampa Bay in 2012 as one of the better overall ends in the league. Was he rewarded with a lucrative deal? Nope — Try a one-year deal worth $4.8 million instead (This should give Bengals fans hope that the market drives Michael Johnson back to Cincinnati).
We could do this for quite some time with various examples, but the point is simple — free agency is not what it used to be. Players on the market are better re-upping with their own team rather than playing the market. Rookies are too cost effective to blow major wads of cash on a veteran. Simple.
Now apply this to Finnegan. He was one of the worst corners in football last year playing primarily out of the slot. He may want to score another big deal, but the market will dictate he has to settle for what he can get on what is likely a one-year deal.
With that in mind, Finnegan will want to come to a contender with a shot at proving himself. Cincinnati is a fit. With how injured the position consistently is, Finnegan will absolutely see some chances to play the slot for the Bengals. He also fits the mold of savvy, cheaper defensive backs that the Bengals love to bring in — think Nate Clements and Terence Newman.
Finnegan to Cincinnati is a win-win for both sides. The Bengals get more depth at the position at a relatively cheap cost and can still grab a rookie at some point. Finnegan gets to play for a contender known for extending the careers of veteran defensive backs in a market that discriminates against older players in favor of cheap, younger options.
Finnegan was not an option for the Bengals in 2012 thanks to his price tag. Now? The fit is just right. Don’t be surprised when the two sides start a dialogue.