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Raiders free agency wish list: Deep, talented cornerback market

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There is a whole heap of available talent about to hit the market at cornerback. That will mean few individual players will get blockbuster deals with many other players’ being available for reasonable contract, more consistent with their actual value. Making it a great time to sign a corner.

Cornerback play was a major issue for the Raiders last season. In particular Sean Smith was disappointing after signing a 4-year, $40 million contract. From the looks of things, the coaches put the issues on DB coach Marcus Robertson. Or at very least, letting him go was their first attempt at trouble shooting the problem.

Adding another solid corner to the mix would settle the issue. In particular they need a slot corner as starters Smith and David Amerson are suited for working the boundaries against the larger receivers. Ideally whomever the team adds could move into a starting position in the near future should the cornerback issues continue this season.

Here are the corners that could be the answer for the Raiders.

A.J. Bouye, 26

The hottest commodity on the market is AJ Bouye. Raiders fans have been talking about Bouye since they first watched him against the Raiders in Mexico City early last season in which he picked off Derek Carr. The rumbling ramped up in their playoff wild card meeting, with Bouye pulling down another interception along with four passes defended. Even though the Raiders’ passing attack was non-existent, with a rookie making his first career start.

NFL teams will be falling over themselves to get to this former undrafted corner. Which may ultimately put his price tag above what the Raiders are willing to shell out, especially after having given big money to Sean Smith and David Amerson last year.

Bouye was barely on the radar until last season. Prior to that he was the team’s nickel and dime corner. But with increased play last season due to injuries, Bouye burst onto the scene, showing outstanding all around cornerback skills. He’s only been performing at this high a level for one season, so NFL teams will have to break out the tape of his limited playing time previous and decide what kind of investment to make in him.

Battle Red Blog has a good write-up on Bouye here.

Logan Ryan, 26

Among the exodus from the Patriots as the team this offseason is Logan Ryan. He is a multifaceted cornerback talent, who can play all over the field. He would play the slot for the Raiders initially, with the skills to play the boundary and start should the Raiders cornerback issues of last season happen again.

Ryan was chosen in the third round of the 2013 draft. I liked him to the Raiders at that time, but they had already selected DJ Hayden with their top pick. They had a shot at Logan in the third round as well, but went with Sio Moore instead. Interestingly enough, I also liked David Amerson and they eventually got him. Now they have a shot at Ryan too.

Stephon Gilmore, 26

The 10th overall pick in 2012 – when the Raiders didn’t even have a first round pick – Gilmore has been a full time starter all five years of his career. Last season, he had a career high 5 interceptions and went to his first Pro Bowl. That isn’t out of nowhere though. He had 3 interceptions in each of the previous two seasons and has a career 62 pass breakups. What you hope is with a deep free agent class at corner, a guy like Gilmore’s price tag won’t be too steep. Or alternatively, another team’s interest in Gilmore will bring down the price of another corner.

Captain Munnerlyn, 29

Case in point with regard to bigger name cornerbacks like the above trio bringing down the price of other players. Munnerlyn could prove to be the best bargain on the market. He is an 8-year veteran who is about to turn 29. Over his 8 NFL seasons with the Panthers and Vikings, he has become well known for his slot corner abilities. He is also extremely reliable, having missed just four games out of a possible 128 in his career.

He left Carolina after five seasons, having been a full time starter the previous three seasons. His three-year deal in Minnesota is now up and they’re letting him test free agency because they have MacKensie Alexander waiting in the wings whom they selected in the second round last year. I am envisioning all the sweet Captain puns that await us should he come to Oakland.

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, 25

Remember him? In case you don’t, here’s a refresher. This former Oregon product was a lock as a first round pick in 2015 with the Ducks headed into the College Football Playoffs. The week leading up to the Rose Bowl playoff semifinal game against the Florida State Seminoles, Ekpre-Olomu went down in practice, dislocating his knee along with ligament damage. Instantly he went from first round to falling all the way to the seventh round where the Browns selected with the pick just before the Raiders selected cornerback Dexter McDonald.

He spent a year with the Browns, on the team’s Non-football injury list, as expected. Then the team released him and he joined the Dolphins. In a rush to return to form, he would tear the ACL in his other knee. Now, before you start with the “injury prone” stuff, understand that statistically 1 out of 3 players who have a major injury in one knee, suffer an injury to the other knee shortly thereafter. It’s due to unconsciously overcompensating for the previously injured knee while a player tries to do too much in order to return from it. A month ago, a Miami doctor cleared Ekpre-Olomu to resume football activities and the Dolphins summarily waived him.

Now 7 months removed from his second ACL injury, the California native has been working out in the Portland area and taking a smarter approach to his preparation. Some team is going to take a flyer on him. If the Raiders are smart, they will take this no risk, high reward shot to get a healthy cornerback off the scrap heap just two years removed from being a first round draft talent.