In an ideal world, the Washington Commanders wouldn’t like to invest more finances in the cornerback position. It’s partly why they bypassed pursuing one of the big-name free agents and re-upped Danny Johnson on a one-year deal.
After all, the team’s top two cornerbacks, Kendall Fuller and William Jackson III, form two of the five-biggest cap hits on the roster. Adding a third expensive party to the rotation would put Washington in a bind from a cap perspective.
But what if said third party was practically begging to come aboard?
When it comes to newly-minted free agent James Bradberry, who was finally released this week after the Giants failed to find a trade partnerthe Commanders feel like the odds-on favorite to land his next signature.
After all Bradberry played under Ron Rivera in Carolina. That alone makes him a candidate for Washington, as all three of the team’s free-agent signings (Andrew Norwell, Efe Obada and Trai Turner) are former Rivera-Panthers.
That history alone is noteworthy, but Bradberry also has tremendous respect for his former head coach. Check out what the 2020 Pro Bowler said about Rivera to NBC Sports Washington’s JP Finlay the last time he was a free agent.
James Bradberry was very open about wanting to play for Commanders head coach Ron Rivera in 2020.
“I would love to play for coach Rivera again,” Bradberry told Finlay. “Like I said, he’s a great man, a great coach and I feel like that’s half the battle as a head coach. Get respect from your guys. Being able to speak to your guys and have them listen to what you have to say and respect what you have to say.”
With that quote in mind, it feels like money is the only variable that could deter Washington from signing the 28-year-old Bradberry. While linebacker is obviously the bigger need compared to cornerback, Rivera and Co. shouldn’t sit idly by and let Bradberry sign with another team (the Eagles and Cowboys could certainly use another corner) when he’d seemingly be open to playing for Rivera again.
In terms of non-NFC East teams, the Patriots, Bills, Chiefs, Dolphins, Bengals and Steelers could also justify bolstering their respective secondaries.
Despite the expected league-wide interest in Bradberry, Washington is widely regarded as his most likely destination. In a recent article, Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports ranked the Commanders first in a list of seven teams he views as the most “logical landing spots” for the former second-round pick.
Here’s what Benjamin said of Bradberry’s fit.
All the dots connect. Coach Ron Rivera was running the show in Carolina when the Panthers drafted him back in 2016, and his departure coincided with Bradberry’s. Plenty of other ex-Rivera staffers now reside in DC, including Bradberry’s former secondary assistant Richard Rodgers.
He wouldn’t have to move far, and would get to face New York twice a year. Washington, meanwhile, could use another proven veteran at corner, where William Jackson III struggled in 2021 and the depth behind fellow starter Kendall Fuller leaves a lot to be desired.
Hard to disagree with those points. We don’t necessarily view cornerback as a pressing need, as Fuller was lights-out in the second half of last season and Jackson is a prime bounce-back candidate after an up-and-down 2021.
Having said that, we wouldn’t turn our nose up at the opportunity to add a third capable cornerback to the mix in a quarterback-dominated league.
If Bradberry wants to come to Washington to reunite with Rivera and is open to taking a discount to make it happen, how could Rivera possibly say no? At the very least, Bradberry’s previous praise for Rivera suggests the Commanders would have the inside track on other potential suitors if they pursue him.