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Las Vegas Raiders should keep an eye on James Bradberry’s contract situation

Moe Moton
James Bradberry, las vegas raiders
Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

As a new administration takes over the New York Giants roster, the Las Vegas Raiders, particularly defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, may have an interest in one particular cut candidate.

As cornerback Casey Hayward Jr.’s contract expires going into the league year, the Raiders could replace him with James Bradberry if the Giants shed a couple of inflated salaries for cap-space flexibility. Big Blue is currently $12.2 million over the threshold, and Bradberry has the second-highest cap hit on its roster at $21.9 million, per Over the Cap.

This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky prediction for free agency. ESPN’s Jordan Raanan believes Bradberry’s future with the Giants is “in doubt” when he broke down the club’s salary cap situation.

Why James Bradberry is a fit for Las Vegas Raiders

“The money has to come from somewhere and cornerback James Bradberry, scheduled to count an absurd $21.9 million against the cap, saves them $12 million,” Raanan wrote.

Other than Trayvon Mullen, Amik Robertson, Natrell Jamerson, Cre’Von LeBlanc, and Nate Hobbs are the only other cornerbacks under contract in 2022. Keisean Nixon will be a restricted free agent.

This past season, Robertson struggled on the perimeter, which is why midseason acquisitions such as Brandon Facyson and Desmond Trufant played a lot of snaps out wide after Week 6. Like Hayward, Facyson and Trufant have expiring contracts as well. The Raiders signed Jamerson and LeBlanc in January and February, respectively. Hobbs mans the slot position.

If Hayward signs elsewhere, possibly with the Indianapolis Colts who hired defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, the Raiders will have a major void to fill in the secondary. In the event that the Giants release Bradberry as a cap casualty, Vegas seems like a probable destination for him since he had his best years under Graham.

What Bradberry brings to the Raiders’ defensive table

James Bradberry, las vegas raiders
Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

After four years with the Carolina Panthers, Bradberry hit the free-agent market in 2020 and signed the Giants. He earned his first Pro Bowl nod with Big Blue, recording three interceptions and 18 pass breakups while allowing a 61.5 percent completion rate and an 81.2 passer rating in coverage. The 28-year-old followed up with four interceptions and 17 pass breakups, permitting a 61.7 percent completion rate and a 93 passer rating in coverage for the 2021 term.

On the flip side, Bradberry allowed twice the number of touchdowns (eight) this past campaign than he did in 2020, which is another reason why the Giants may not retain him on his current deal.

With that said, Bradberry would be an upgrade over what the Raiders currently have at the position. He’s not an elite zone cornerback, but the sixth-year pro has a solid resume and the ball skills that the club needs on the back end. Vegas had the fewest interceptions (six) in 2021.

If Bradberry cuts down on the number of touchdowns allowed — closer to his 2020 campaign performance — he would be a decent pickup at a lower price than his $21.9 million cap value.

The Bradberry peg in a Las Vegas hole

james bradberry, las vegas raiders
Credit: USA Today Network

In two terms under Graham, Bradberry had a steady presence out wide and missed a few snaps while healthy. For the 2020 and 2021 campaigns, he played 99 percent of the defensive snaps. He’s become one of the league’s better zone cornerbacks during his tenure with Big Blue and still has some prime years left.

On a short-term deal, Bradberry could man the perimeter until he’s on the wrong side of 30 or another young cornerback earns a starting job.

While some fans may scoff at moments when Bradberry gave up big plays in 2021, he would join a defense with a better pass rush. This past year, the Giants ranked 30th in pressure rate (20.1 percent) while the Raiders tied for 15th with a 24.4 percent pressure rate. It’s no coincidence that Bradberry had a better 2020 campaign when Big Blue ranked 10th in pressure rate (25.5 percent).

As many know, a consistent pass rush and solid pass coverage go hand in hand. With edge-rusher Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue upfront, Bradberry could take advantage of more errant throws from hurried quarterbacks in the pocket.

If the New England Patriots use the franchise tag to retain cornerback J.C. Jackson, Bradberry, if released, would be a decent alternative option at a position of strong need.

Maurice Moton covers the Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.