Cornerback still rates as a position of concern for the Arizona Cardinals after not much was done to address the spot during the 2022 NFL draft. The only moves made involved waiting until the seventh round to select a cornerback, before adding a pair of corners from the undrafted pool.
It doesn’t seem like enough for a team guilty of allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 65.4 percent of their passes last season. The Cardinals also surrendered 30 touchdowns through the air.
Vice-President of Player Personnel Quentin Harris isn’t worried, though. Not when he believes the Cards landed a “steal” in free agency by signing a cornerback the team was high on ahead of the 2020 draft.
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Cardinals Had to Wait for First-Round Talent
Harris recently appeared on the The Dave Pasch Podcast to discuss a variety of topics, including the arrival of veteran cover man Jeff Gladney. Harris talked up the signing, telling Pasch (h/t Jess Root of Cards Wire): “We feel like that’s another steal. We had a first-round grade on him.”
The Cards may have rated Gladney first-round worthy, but they ultimately chose linebacker Isaiah Simmons with the eighth-overall pick. Gladney was left to wait until the 31st pick to hear his named called by the Minnesota Vikings.
While he didn’t snatch any interceptions as a rookie, Gladney did make 81 tackles, including 57 solo stops, and broke up three passes. He also forced a fumble against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6 of his debut season:
He lasted just one season in Minnesota, before the Vikings released Gladney after the player was indicted by a Texas grand jury for felony assault of a woman. Gladney was acquitted in March when a Dallas “jury deliberated for less than two hours before unanimously rendering a not guilty verdict,” according to Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson.
The Cardinals moved to sign Gladney to a two-year deal on Wednesday, March 16. Harris told Pasch any “off-field issues have been cleaned up,” per Root.
What Harris hopes he’s got is somebody who not only improves depth at a shaky position, but also fits the schemes of defensive coordinator Vance Joseph: “We are getting a young player in our building. The depth was a concern last year so I think we addressed that with adding him. He’s a press-corner guy and you know (defensive coordinator Vance Joseph) likes to play man defense. But also, this guy is smart. When we ask him to get into zones, he shows the aptitude for that.”
Gladney has the talent to fit the bill, even if most of his best highlights still date back to this time at TCU, where he recorded five interceptions and broke up 31 passes during his final three seasons on campus, per Sports Reference.
It’s realistic to expect Gladney to be a factor alongside incumbent corners Byron Murphy and Marco Wilson this season. Yet, there’s no denying depth is still an area of concern.
CB Depth Still Suspect
Wilson, Murphy and Gladney make for an intriguing group of starters, but there’s a paucity of talent behind them. Antonio Hamilton and seventh-rounder Christian Matthew could be joined by rookie free agent Darrell Baker Jr., who has been picked by Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski as the undrafted player with the best chance to make the Cards’ roster.
Aside from Baker, the Cardinals also signed former Boise State DB Kekaula Kaniho after the draft, according to Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. It’s little wonder there are those who believe the Cards should dip into the veteran market for some more proven reinforcements.
Among them, Andy Kwong of SB Nation’s Revenge of the Birds believes ex-New York Giants starter James Bradberry would be a smart signing:
An alternative is offered by Fansided’s Lou Scataglia, writing for NFL Spin Zone and advising the Cardinals to sign former Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos cover man Kyle Fuller, who “still has a ton of value as a CB2.”
Fuller and Bradberry are both good options for a cornerback room that won’t look complete unless general manager Steve Keim adds at least one experienced cover man to fix the glaring weakness of last season’s defense.