At the end of last month, New Orleans Saints defense coordinator Steve Spagnuolo announced he was leaving to become head coach and defensive coordinator for the New York Giants. With that announcement came a vacancy with the Saints’ staff. On Monday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that San Francisco 49ers DC Robert Saleh will replace him on Sean Payton’s staff in New Orleans as soon as possible.
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In the offseason of 2022, the Buccaneers of Tampa Bay will have to make some difficult personnel choices. Carlton Davis, the starting cornerback for Bruce Arians’ team, is one of many major players testing the NFL free agency market.
Since joining the league in 2018, the fourth-year defensive back from Auburn has shown great progress. Davis’ output in 2021 was hampered by injuries. In ten games, he had 39 tackles, 11 pass defenses, and one interception. Even so, he’s unquestionably one of the greatest cornerbacks on the market.
When free agency begins, Davis might be on the radar of numerous NFL clubs in need of cornerbacks.
Buccaneers of Tampa Bay
Carlton Davis of the Buccaneers of Tampa Bay in action against the Buffalo Bills | Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
The Buccaneers of Tampa Bay are a no-brainer here. Surely, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles would love to have his top cornerback return in 2022. Carlton Davis has been an integral part of the Bucs’ defensive transformation over the past few seasons.
In four seasons, Davis has 207 tackles, 52 pass defenses, and six interceptions. He’s a brash corner who isn’t afraid to take risks, but he has a track record of making plays. In 2021, opposing quarterbacks completed just 57.1 percent of throws thrown in his area, resulting in an 83.2 passer rating.
Tampa Bay’s top cornerback is Davis, but the Bucs only have $6.8 million in cap room. The front desk won’t be able to bring everyone back. The club might choose to tag him with the franchise tag. While it would undoubtedly provide him with a good salary, other clubs in the NFL may be willing to pay him even more in free agency.
Jets of New York
Carlton Davis isn’t perfect by any means, but he is a really good cornerback. That’s something the Jets of New York desperately lack. Robert Saleh’s squad had one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. The Jets allowed the third-most passing yards to opposing offenses (259.3 yards per game). They also gave up 28 touchdowns through the air.
Michael Carter II, Bryce Hall, and Brandin Echols are young, inexperienced athletes that showed potential in 2021. This defense, on the other hand, lacks a real No. 1 cover corner. Davis has the potential to be that player for New York. He’s rugged and muscular, which is something Saleh should admire.
The Jets have a strong financial position moving into the summer. They have $44.7 million in cap space, which will enable them to bring in some much-needed expertise in the front office. This club definitely has a lot of needs after a 4-13 season. Carlton Davis, on the other hand, may be able to tackle the issue from the outside.
Bengals of Cincinnati
The Bengals of Cincinnati surprised a lot of people in the 2021 season. Not many people expected them to even compete for an AFC North title, let alone make it to the Super Bowl. However, Zac Taylor’s squad is proving it can be formidable for years to come.
Despite their amazing rise, the Bengals have a few obvious gaps to fix in the summer. In NFL free agency, Cincinnati should focus on improving its secondary. The defense surrendered an average of 248.3 passing yards per game (seventh-most in the NFL). Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie have each had their moments, but Eli Apple is a liability.
Carlton Davis could come in and immediately improve the defense. The Bengals are a confident group, and the Buccaneers defensive back is no exception. Cincinnati will be right back in the mix in 2022 if it can sign Davis.
Eagles of Philadelphia
The Eagles of Philadelphia performed better than many expected in the 2021 season. However, they still have a ways to go before they become legitimate title contenders. One area the front office will likely want to upgrade is the secondary.
The Eagles’ pass defense was adequate, allowing 220.9 yards per game passing. Philadelphia, on the other hand, allowed 28 throwing touchdowns this season. What happens with Steven Nelson will be intriguing to watch. The 29-year-old is an unrestricted free agent in 2022, so he might play elsewhere.
If Nelson decides to retire, the Eagles may choose to replace him with Carlton Davis. The Bucs cornerback would be an improvement, and he and Pro Bowler Darius Slay might make a formidable one-two punch. The team has a lot of young cornerbacks on the roster, but having an experienced player come in might help them make the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Pro Football Reference provided all numbers, while Spotrac provided contract statistics.
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