Giants Heading Towards Deal with Ex-Bengals CB

Giants Workout Ex-Chiefs & Bengals CB KeiVarae Russell

Getty KeiVarae Russell #20 of the Cincinnati Bengals warms up before the the game against the Cleveland Browns

The New York Giants are on the verge of adding to their secondary, as reports surfaced on Tuesday that they intend to sign ex-Cardinals cornerback Brandon Williams, given he passes his physical. However, Williams isn’t the only former third-round NFL Draft pick to have piqued Big Blue’s interest.

New York Daily News’ Pat Leonard reported that KeiVarae Russell, a four-year NFL veteran who most recently spent time with the Los Angeles Chargers, began COVID-19 testing with the Giants on Tuesday. On Thursday, the 26-year-old cornerback workout out with the team, per the NFL transaction wire.

Russell Has High Upside, but a Rocky Start to His Career

It wasn’t too long ago, the 5-foot-11-inch, 196-pound Russell was lauded as a potential first-round selection and future shutdown corner.

Russell would go on to start 25 games over his first two college seasons before an academic suspension would wipe out his 2014 campaign entirely. Russell returned to Notre Dame’s lineup in 2015, posting or tying career highs in total tackles (48), sacks (1) and interceptions (2).

Russell endured a slight slide on draft day, landing with the Kansas City Chiefs in the third round. However, he was unceremoniously waived during final roster cuts, becoming the highest-selected rookie that season to not make his team’s opening day roster.

Russell was claimed the following day by the Cincinnati Bengals where he spent three seasons, from 2016 through 2018. Over that span, Russell appeared in 20 games, making his lone career start and compiling 22 total tackles, two passes defended and one interception.

Cincinnati waived the Everett, Washington native during final roster cuts last season. He was signed to the Los Angeles Chargers’ practice squad in late November, but his Bolts career lasted just 14 days.

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Examining Giants’ Cornerback Position

The Giants are in desperate need of answers at cornerback opposite big-ticket free agent addition James Bradberry. DeAndre Baker, a 2019 first-round pick, remains on the Commissioner Exempt List, as he’s currently facing four counts of robbery with a firearm. While Sam Beal, the favorite to replace Beal in Big Blue’s starting lineup, opted out of the 2020 NFL season.

While they may add depth, neither Russell nor the aforementioned Brandon Williams are the likely answer at the position. However, they will be given every opportunity to make their case for a roster spot, as they compete with the likes of rookie Darnay Holmes, former XFL standout Dravon Askew-Henry, second-year pro Corey Ballentine, and UDFAs Jarren Williams, Christian Angulo and Prince Smith Jr. 

Another option that remains on the table for the Giants would be to sign former Tennessee Titans cornerback Logan Ryan, who surprisingly remains on the open market as we inch closer to September.

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