The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have two clear starters at cornerback: Vernon Hargreaves and Brent Grimes. Behind that, though, the depth chart is a bit of a mess. The Bucs have a lot of players there who can play a lot of different roles, and who have varying amounts of experience and talent.
That’s true despite the fact that the Bucs did not add any cornerbacks in the draft this year. They did, however, (re-)sign a few free agents.
Here’s what secondary coach Jon Hoke said on Thursday.
We moved Ryan Smith [to cornerback]; we're excited about what he can do. Jude [Adjei-Barimah] is a flexible guy; he has some speed to play outside. And [Robert] McClain's played outside also. So we've got some guys there that we're comfortable with, that we're looking at, and we've got some undrafted free agents we're looking at. There are some guys that have some opportunities."
That depth is actually pretty solid. Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves are the unquestioned starters—which was expected but not entirely a foregone conclusion—while the Bucs have a decent mix of experience and talent backing them up.
Smith has no playing experience, but was the team’s fourth-round pick last season. He has a lot of athleticism and the potential to turn into a quality player, but didn’t really see the field last year.
Adjei-Barimah and Robert McClain have more experience, with the former playing very well before his suspension last year and showing up as a promising if inconsistent rookie in 2015.
McClain’s the more experienced guy, with 23 starts in a six-year career, most of them under Mike Smith who was his defensive coordinator in Atlanta. He’s probably best as a slot cornerback, a position he should compete for with Josh Robinson, though.
Robinson is interestingly absent from that list, incidentally, as is Javien Elliott, who had some promising plays as an undrafted rookie last year. It seems they’re not really being considered on the outside—and they may be pretty far down the pecking order in total, unless they’re seen as the primary guys in the slot.