Steelers Named ‘Potential Landing Spot’ for Pro Bowl CB: Giants Insider

JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Bradberry

Sarah Stier/Getty Images JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers scores a touchdown as James Bradberry of the New York Giants defends on September 14, 2020 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

On Monday May 9 the New York Giants released veteran cornerback James Bradberry after the team was unable to consummate a trade for the former second-round pick, this according to Dan Duggan, who covers the Giants for The Athletic.

“Though trade interest in Bradberry was tepid, expect a stronger market to materialize now that teams have the freedom to negotiate a deal from scratch without needing to part with any draft picks,” writes Duggan, who specifically references the Eagles, Chiefs, Raiders, Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers among potential landing spots.

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James Bradberry Has 15 Career Interceptions

Bradberry — listed at 6-foot-1 and 212 pounds — entered the league in 2016 as a second-round pick of the Carolina Panthers, having played his college ball at Samford University in Alabama after transferring from Arkansas State, per Pro Football Reference. He started 60 games over the course of four seasons with the Panthers, recording 279 tackles (222 solo), including seven tackles for loss, eight interceptions and 47 passes defensed, while also contributing three sacks and a pair of forced fumbles.

Bradberry went on to sign a three-year, $45 million contract with the Giants in March 2020 and authored a pair of highly productive seasons in New York, during which he was responsible for a total of 101 tackles (81 solo), with seven interceptions and 35 passes defensed, plus two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. But a trade or his release was almost inevitable, as multiple contract restructures saw his 2022 salary cap hit balloon to $21.9 million, notes Duggan. Never mind that Bradberry earned Pro Bowl honors in 2020; he “isn’t viewed as a fit in new defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale’s man coverage-heavy system,” related one of Duggan’s sources.

But he could be a good fit in, say, Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, the former of which needs a No. 2 cornerback — like ex-Steeler Joe Haden, perhaps — and the latter of which could use another starting-caliber option.

“Bradberry won’t get a $13.4 million salary from any team at this point, but if he’s going to settle for less, it makes sense to sign a one-year deal with a team of his choosing,” concludes Duggan, opining on how things might go now that the Alabama native is an unrestricted free agent.

Pittsburgh’s Cornerback Room as of May 2022

At the moment, free agent acquisition Levi Wallace (Buffalo Bills) and 2021 trade acquisition Ahkello Witherspoon (Seattle Seahawks) appear to be the leading contenders to start for the Steelers at cornerback, with Cameron Sutton in the slot unless recently re-signed Arthur Maulet wins that job.

As for depth options, former third-round pick Justin Layne (Michigan State) enters the last year of the rookie deal he signed in 2019, while former undrafted free agent James Pierre (Florida Atlantic) will be embarking on his third NFL campaign. Layne, 24, has yet to start a game in the league, while Pierre, 25, made four starts in 2021.

The Steelers also signed a pair of rookie undrafted free agents after the conclusion of the 2022 NFL Draft, namely USC cornerback Chris Steele and “UDFA to watch” Bryce Watts, who finished his college career at UMass after beginning his journey at Virginia Tech, with a stop at North Carolina in between. Prior to the draft, Watts boasted that he was the “best corner in this draft class.” He’ll get the opportunity to begin proving himself when Pittsburgh opens its rookie minicamp on May 13.

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