Should the Commanders pursue ex-Giants CB James Bradberry?

James Bradberry breaks up a pass against the Rams

Two years ago, cornerback James Bradberry was set to hit the free-agent market. Fresh off four productive seasons with the Panthers, he was ready to cash in.

At the same time, Bradberry's former coach was getting settled in a new role. Ron Rivera, who drafted Bradberry in Carolina, had been named Washington's head boss just a few months prior. And it just so happened that Rivera's new team had a need at cornerback.

Speaking with NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay during Super Bowl week in Miami in 2020, Bradberry said he "would love to play for Coach Rivera again." However, the cornerback signed a three-year deal with the New York Giants just weeks later when free agency opened.

Now, two years later, Bradberry is available once again. The Giants released the cornerback on Monday with one year remaining on his contract after being unable to find a trade partner. 

And, once again, the Commanders have a need at cornerback. So, should Rivera make a push to bring a familiar face to Ashburn?

Talent-wise, Bradberry would be a significant addition to a cornerback room that has two solid starters, Kendall Fuller and William Jackson III, but lacks proven depth behind them. 

Besides Fuller and Jackson III, the Commanders' cornerback unit consists of Benjamin St-Juste, Christian Holmes and Corn Elder. St-Juste, a third-rounder in 2021, missed most of his rookie season due to injury. Holmes is a seventh-round pick entering his rookie season. Elder has just one start over four professional seasons.


Should the Commanders sign Bradberry he'd immediately become the team's top cornerback. Jackson III, who played a lot better towards the end of the 2021 season, would start opposite him. The two would immediately become one of the NFL's better cornerback duos.

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While Jackson III is at his best when playing man-coverage, Bradberry's more of a zone cornerback. Del Rio's unit has typically played more zone, which is in part why Jackson III struggled to begin the 2021 season. Adding a standout zone cornerback like Bradberry should only help Jackson III get more comfortable in the defensive scheme.

The addition of Bradberry would also benefit Fuller, even if it meant playing elsewhere on the defense. In his six professional seasons, Fuller has played every position in the secondary, including both safety spots. With Bradberry and Jackson III on the outside, Fuller would be able to man the slot -- a position he's excelled in previously -- while chipping in elsewhere, too. 

Between Fuller and safeties Bobby McCain and Kam Curl, Washington has three players with the ability to play practically every position in the secondary. Fuller has been primarily used as an outside cornerback since returning to Washington in 2020, but adding Bradberry, a true No. 1 cornerback, to the mix would allow defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to get flexible with how he uses Fuller.

The Commanders are still searching for someone to play the Buffalo Nickel role -- a hybrid safety who plays closer to the line of scrimmage -- in Del Rio's defense following the release of Landon Collins. Fuller's skill set doesn't exactly fill that role, but his versatility would allow Del Rio and Rivera to get creative filling out the rest of the defense. Fourth-round pick Percy Butler is another candidate to fill Collins' shoes as well.

Fit-wise, adding Bradberry to the Commanders defense makes a ton of sense. If only it were that easy, though.

New York didn't let Bradberry go because of poor performance. Rather, the cornerback was due $13.4 million in base salary in 2022 and came with a $21.86 million salary-cap hit. By moving on from Bradberry, the Giants saved $10 million in cap space.

Wherever he signs, Bradberry is going to command a lucrative pay-day. He's earned it, too. The cornerback is still only 28 years old and has been durable throughout his entire career. Bradberry's hauled in 15 interceptions since 2016, the seventh-most of any cornerback, tied with Jalen Ramsey and Casey Hayward. That's great company.

For Washington, making another large investment financially in the cornerback position might not make sense, either. Fuller, entering the third year of a four-year, $40 million deal, is due $8 million in 2022 with an $11.2 million cap hit, according to Spotrac. Jackson III, entering the second of a three-year, $40.5 million deal, is due $10.8 million this season with a $13.2 million cap hit.


Regardless of where Bradberry ends up, his annual salary figures to be higher than both Fuller and Jackson III's. The Commanders have already invested a lot of money in the cornerback position with Fuller and Jackson III already taking up $24.4 million in cap space for Washington next season.

As good as Bradberry is, the team might feel they need to invest the team's roughly $9.9 million cap space available elsewhere. Linebacker remains a need. Cornerback is a need, too, but there are other, cheaper options on the market as well.

It's worth noting that Collins' release was designated as a post-June 1 transaction, meaning the Commanders will gain $11.9 million in cap space. But that newly available money won't be available until next month, with Bradberry likely to be off the free-agent market by then.

Adding Bradberry to the Commanders' defense makes a lot of sense on the field. If the Commanders' front office can figure out how to make it work contractually, signing Bradberry would be a home run.

But for now, it seems like a like of maneuvering would need to take place financially before the thought of adding the former All-Pro cornerback to Del Rio's defense can become a reality.