‘Intriguing’ Free Agent Cornerback Visiting Giants: Report

Getty Images Leonard Johnson (33) in action for Duke Blue Devils in 2019.

Editor’s note: This article was written prior to the news that the Giants signed Johnson to a three-year contract, as KPRC 2’s Aaron Wilson later reported.

Add another Monday meeting to the New York Giants’ schedule. Former Duke cornerback Leonard Johnson will make a free agent visit in New York, according to KPRC 2 Houston’s Aaron Wilson.

Johnson, a 6-foot-4, 194-pound cornerback, notched 6 interceptions and 17 pass breakups in four college seasons from 2018-21.

He was a projected middle-round pick in the 2022 draft but went unselected after tearing his ACL during pre-draft training.

Johnson will be the second free agent to make a visit to Giants headquarters on March 20. The team is also hosting former Rams and Lions defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Here’s what to know about Johnson before his visit with Big Blue:

Leonard Johnson’s ‘Versatility’ Would Appeal to the New York Giants

Johnson is an “intriguing press corner” and “developmental prospect,” according to NJ.com beat reporter Art Stapleton.

His health is the biggest issue. And according to video posted to Wilson’s Twitter from a February 11 workout, the second-year defensive back has made a “strong recovery.”

Dr. Amit Momoya tweeted he performed Johnson’s surgery and called the procedure — an ACL reconstruction and meniscal repair — a “recent success story.”

If Johnson’s knee holds up, he could hold down multiple spots across the Giants secondary. The team lost starting safety and team captain Julian Love to the Seahawks last week; Johnson played “multiple spots” at Duke, according to Stapleton.

“That versatility would likely appeal to the Giants,” Stapleton tweeted.

Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline gave the Duke product a “middle-round grade” when he came out of college last year.

“(Johnson is a) nice-sized physical cornerback who mixes it up with opponents and fires upfield to defend the run,” Pauline wrote in his scouting report. “(He) effectively diagnoses plays, quickly picks up assignments, and is most effective facing the action. (He physically beats down opponents to defend the throw and competes against bigger opponents.”

Secondary Options

Johnson is the first reported cornerback to visit the Giants in this free agent cycle. He might not be the last, given the wealth of options still available to sign.

Potential names to consider include veterans like Rock Ya-Sin, Shaquill Griffin, Jalen Mills, Kyle Fuller and Marcus Peters.

Peters might be the most attractive of the group to general manager Joe Schoen. The 30-year-old former Ravens star is already a scheme fit after working with Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale in Baltimore.

New York might be sitting in the sweet spot to pick a younger option in April’s draft, too.

Pro Football Focus ranks four cornerback prospects — Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon (7), Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez (10), Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. (16), and Maryland’s Deonte Banks (18) — higher than the Giants current draft slot at 25. If one or more of them were to fall, Big Blue could find some big value.

If not, names like Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes, South Carolina’s Cam Smith and Georgia’s Kelee Ringo could be considered in the first round.

The Giants wait until Round 2 to address cornerback in Heavy’s seven-round Giants mock draft, taking Kansas State’s Julius Brents at 57 overall. Brents is PFF’s 62nd-ranked player.