NFL | Free agency may make former Mustang Rodgers-Cromartie a Denver Bronco

Lakewood Ranch's DRC could be Denver's missing piece

adell@bradenton.comMarch 13, 2013 

The Denver Broncos' secondary was exposed in a playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.

If the franchise had a guy back there who could cover the deep pass, it might have hoisted the 2013 Lombardi Trophy.

The Broncos see Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as a person who could possibly fix the problem and have invited him to the Mile High city for talks, according to a source close to DRC.

The Lakewood Ranch product also will visit the Indianapolis Colts, another serious suitor, according to the source.

After the first day of free agency, those are the two places DRC is most likely to land.

There has been a lot of talk about him going to the Tampa Bay Bucs, but that move is not in play. Tampa Bay has not contacted the cornerback's representatives.

DRC's biggest strength is as a cover guy. He was fifth in the league last season with 15 passes defended and just might be what the Broncos and Peyton Manning need.

He could be the perfect replacement for aging Champ Bailey, who got torched for big plays in the loss to the Ravens.

The price for DRC begins at $10 million per season over an extended contract. The Broncos can meet that demand if they are careful about how they structure their deals.

The Colts need a starting cornerback and, with $43 million in cap space, are able to give DRC the money he wants. The question is whether they want to pay that much. They have showed enough interest for DRC's top shelf agent Eugene Parker to set up a visit.

It's highly unlikely the cornerback will return to the Eagles, but things change quickly with free agency. When one top cornerback signs, the dominoes could start falling quickly.

With the worst pass defense last year,

it's no secret the Bucs are seeking several cornerbacks and a pass rusher. They are mentioned as the top suitor for the Jets' Darrelle Revis, but also reportedly are interested in Miami's Sean Smith. The Eagles also want Smith and if he goes to Philly, Tampa Bay might churn up the dollars for DRC.

Some have criticized DRC as being soft, and, to a point, the 27-year-old has agreed. But there isn't a free-agent cornerback without flaws.

Here are some guys DRC will be competing against for free agency dollars:

n Brent Grimes (Atlanta) -- He was a stud in 2011, but an Achilles injury that basically wiped out last season has frightened teams.

n Smith (Miami) -- He bruised his left knee in the team's season finale last year; the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder has good size, but questionable coverage skills. He allowed 62 receptions in his coverage area, which ranked among the 10 most, and was burned for six touchdowns, which tied for fifth most in the NFL.

n Aqib Talib (Patriots) -- He's talented, but a head case that scares teams along with tendency to give up big plays.

n Derek Cox (Jacksonville) -- Fifth-year pro has good size at 6-1, but he might be injury prone with 17 missed games during the past three years. The Bucs like him.

n Chris Houston (Detroit) -- The six-year pro has come on strong in the past two years. It would've cost Lions $10.9 million to slap franchise tag on him. Some call him the second-best free agent corner, but at 5-11 doesn't have DRC's speed, size or wing span.

The Eagles came close to putting the franchise tag on DRC, which would've earned him a little more than $10 million in 2013. He can get more on the open market with the security of a long-term deal.

DRC had his best game against Tampa Bay last season and showed physicality. It didn't go unnoticed by Bucs head coach Greg Schiano.

Did DRC just get into a bad situation in Philly?

In his first three NFL seasons, DRC had 13 interceptions and four touchdowns with Arizona. In his two years with the Eagles, he doesn't have a touchdown and just three interceptions.

What about Jenkins

DRC's friend, Mike Jenkins, the Southeast High/USF product, is flying under the radar. The only thing we know for sure about the cornerback is that he won't be back with the Dallas Cowboys. There is mutual discontent between Jenkins and the organization, particularly owner Jerry Jones. The 27-year-old was unhappy about how he was treated coming off shoulder surgery after the 2011 season.

Perhaps most importantly, Jenkins sees himself as a starter, and a lot of NFL scouts agree. His likely destination could be Buffalo or San Francisco or perhaps Tampa Bay if the dollars dry up and they could get him on cheap.

The 49ers' linebackers coach, Jim Leavitt, was USF's head coach when Jenkins played there and has nothing but admiration for him. Schiano was head coach at Rutgers when he went against Jenkins and has always held him high esteem.

Jenkins could be rejuvenated playing at Raymond James Stadium, where he earned All-American honors at USF and would be playing in front of his family and friends.

It would be to his advantage to sign a one-year deal, have a good season and then go for the big bucks in 2014.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports and listen to him talk about his column and other sports on "Out of Bounds" every Tuesday and Thursday between 8 and 10 p.m. on WTMY 1280-AM.

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