Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Cornerback
This is the second in a series of position-by-position looks at the Patriots by Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry as we head into the offseason. Today's position: Cornerback
Logan Ryan, 24 (signed thru 2016)
Darryl Roberts, 25 (signed thru 2018)
Tarell Brown, 31 (signed thru 2015)
Malcolm Butler, 25 (signed thru 2016)
Leonard Johnson, 25 (signed thru 2016)
Justin Coleman, 22 (signed thru 2015)
Rashaan Melvin, 26 (signed thru 2016)
First things first, the corners played way better in 2015 than anyone had a right to expect. The Patriots included. They shuttled through Bradley Fletcher and Robert McClain (who started in the Super Bowl for Carolina) before deciding Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler would be their guys. And they wound up being one of the league’s better corner tandems. So the team seems to have two young starters in place for 2016 at reasonable money. Behind those two, there isn’t much under contract. Leonard Johnson, 25, came aboard and was a mixed bag. Darryl Roberts is an unproven guy. Rashaan Melvin does not excite. The team should first re-sign 22-year-old Justin Coleman who really impressed in his time with the team after being claimed off of waivers. Veteran Tarell Brown’s deal is expiring but the team was set to have him start before he went on IR with a foot injury. He’s worth perhaps renewing on a one-year deal. Adding another mid-tier corner in free agency is a likelihood. No sense shopping for a front-line guy given the financial outlays the defense is going to see elsewhere and at this position with both Ryan and Butler.
The Patriots know what they have in Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan. Both players are signed through 2016, and it would come as no surprise if the team moved to lock up one or both in the very near future. What the Patriots have after those top two is a little less certain. Justin Coleman is an intriguing option as the team's No. 3 corner. Keep in mind, the Patriots often lean on Patrick Chung -- and Devin McCourty, at times -- to play up on the line of scrimmage in what many might consider "corner" or "slot-corner" roles. But when the team looks at its cornerback depth chart after the top two spots, Coleman may be the next man up. Bill Belichick compared Coleman to Malcolm Butler toward the end of the season in that both players were hard to gauge coming out of college yet showed their talents given an opportunity at the NFL level. The Patriots also opted to keep Coleman on the roster when he was dealing with injuries during the season and the team could have used his roster spot on a healthier player. They like him, and he has a chance at a bigger role in 2016. Rookie Darryl Roberts, who flashed last offseason before suffering a season-ending injury, could also see an increased role after a red-shirt season. Otherwise, the Patriots could benefit from some depth here to provide some insurance should anything happen to either Butler or Ryan. Both played over 1,000 snaps in 2015.