The New York Jets announced on Monday they have released cornerback Antonio Cromartie. The move saved the Jets $8 million in cap space, making it an easy decision for their front office. Cromartie leaves the Jets after just a one-year stint, despite signing a four-year deal last offseason. He will hit the free agent market for the second year in a row, and the name alone has fans turning their heads.
On the surface, it would make a lot of sense for the Detroit Lions to kick the tires on Cromartie. They have a glaring need at cornerback after Rashean Mathis announced his retirement earlier this month. Cromartie could immediately step into that veteran role while the Lions try to figure out what they have in their young cornerbacks like Alex Carter, Quandre Diggs and Nevin Lawson.
But signing Cromartie would be a mistake. He may be just four years removed from a Pro Bowl season, but he has clearly taken a step back since then. From NJ.com:
He turns 32 in April and is entering his 11th season. He's not the player he once was. Far from it. Though he steadied himself after some brutal struggles midway through last season, he wasn't rated among the NFL's top corners by Pro Football Focus.
Here's a look.
Consider Cromartie's recent PFF ratings:
2015 (with Jets): 103rd overall (of 118), 97th in coverage
2014 (with Arizona): 41st overall (of 108), 40th in coverage
2013 (with Jets): 104th overall (of 110), 109th in coverage
Last year, despite not suffering from any apparent injuries (except for a minor quad injury that kept him out of one game), Cromartie ranked 103rd out of 118 according to Pro Football Focus. But let's not put all of our eggs in PFF's basket. Here's what other outlets are saying about Cromartie's recent play:
Although he started 15 of 16 games and appeared healthy, he failed to grab an interception for the first time since his rookie year. His 29 tackles were also his fewest since 2006. Cromartie really struggled to keep up with younger and faster receivers in coverage, and was consistently getting beat by deep balls.
Cromartie has the ability to make plays but looks like he has lost a step. He is 31 years old and many wonder if this was his last year with Gang Green. Those that played under him stepped up and produced much more to help out the Jets’ defense.
Earlier in the year, the Jets’ defense looked virtually impenetrable, but in recent weeks, Cromartie’s struggles have come into focus.
Last week he surrendered two scores in the loss to Oakland. Hurns’ touchdown was the sixth one he’s given up this year.
Heck even Cromartie admitted halfway through the season that his play "hasn't been good."
While Cromartie fits the profile of a need for the Lions, he just doesn't seem to have the talent to justify a starting spot on Detroit's depth chart. Additionally, Cromartie's got the name and the accolades to draw more attention in free agency than he's worth at this point in his career. The Lions can't afford to get in a bidding war over an aged defender when the team has so many other holes to fill.