With the Los Angeles Rams electing to franchise tag fellow cornerback Trumaine Johnson instead, Janoris Jenkins is set to hit free agency and will be one of the mostly highly coveted cornerbacks on this year’s market–perhaps even by the Indianapolis Colts:
Keep in mind that it’s not the first time the Colts have been linked to Jenkins, as the team was rumored to he highly interested in the talented, but troubled North Alabama cornerback ahead of the 2012 NFL Draft–even scheduling a team visit:
Of course, the Colts ended up selecting tight end Coby Fleener with the 34th pick in the 2nd round instead, and Jenkins was selected shortly thereafter by the then St. Louis Rams at pick #39.
Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that if the Colts had been interested in Jenkins then, the team may also be interested in him now–when he’s proven to be one of the NFL’s better young cornerbacks in 4 seasons with the Rams and perhaps most importantly, stayed out of trouble.
The 5’10, 198 pound cornerback is coming off a season with the Rams in which he recorded 64 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 3 interceptions in 15 starts.
The Colts do have around $25 million in cap space (before any additional cuts), but Jenkins reportedly turned down a 5-year, $45 million contract extension from the Rams recently (as well as fired his agent).
By all indications, he wants to get paid quite handsomely on his next contract.
With Andrew Luck‘s mega-extension looming, there’s serious questions of both whether the Colts can afford to pay two cornerbacks big money–with Vontae Davis set to make $8.375M in 2016, or whether the team actually should.
Specifically, even the league’s best cornerbacks will eventually get picked apart with a nonexistent pass rush. Something that the Colts were often guilty of this past season and should be their primary defensive focus to address this offseason.
That being said, even though the team was led by a ferocious pass rush, the Denver Broncos just won a Super Bowl by pairing it with a tandem of lockdown cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr., who are set to make elite cornerback money $9.969M and $9M next season respectively.
The bad news is that he still gambles a lot in coverage and has shown a propensity to give up big plays:
Still only age 27 though, Jenkins’ best play is arguably still ahead of him, and he may not have peaked yet as an NFL cornerback. However, he’s seeking elite cornerback money when he hasn’t quite been that caliber of cornerback on a consistent basis yet.
Any team that signs Jenkins is likely rolling the dice that he has yet to reach his long-term potential and can become a truly elite NFL cornerback.
The Colts may be better served drafting a highly regarded cornerback prospect early in the NFL Draft and using such salary cap funds elsewhere.
Drafting the likes of say Clemson cornerback Mackensie Alexander—who the Colts recently interviewed, in the 1st round of the NFL Draft could be a cost efficient move, especially if it ends up saving the Colts $9-11M per year that the team would have to pay a high-end free agent cornerback otherwise.
With so many glaring holes elsewhere on the roster, it’s a fair question of whether the Colts can actually afford to pay another player #1 cornerback money. My answer would lean towards no.