Antonio Cromartie is not an unrestricted free agent this offseason … at least not yet.
Once considered the New York Jets’ top cornerback and an adequate replacement for Darrelle Revis is, however, a candidate for release due to the $4.3 million salary and $5 million roster bonus he’s owed in 2014.
Cromartie, who will soon turn 30, is coming off one of his worst seasons as a pro and had to deal with a hip issue most of the season. According to overthecap.com, Cromartie’s cap number is slated at almost $15 million, which would be a team-high.
He finished the season with 35 tackles, while his three interceptions and nine pass defenses were both the lowest totals since the 2010 season. While the cornerback is highly likely to hit the free-agent market, don’t count on him to leave New York City.
The Jets will save almost $9.5 million by cutting Cromartie, but can re-sign him for a cheaper deal. Cromartie has previously stated he expects to be released by the team but remains hopeful he can return to Gang Green. Optimism remains that if healthy, Cromartie is still capable of playing like a No. 1 corner.
But playing the “what if” game, what if Cromartie tests the free-agent waters and can garner a more lucrative offer from another club? “That’s the plan,” Cromartie said when asked about returning to the Jets, adding, “I’m not guaranteeing it.”
What if the Jets’ arch-nemesis, the New England Patriots, are unable to retain Aqib Talib? Bill Belichick has a track record of getting the most out of veteran players and perhaps — if healthy — Cromartie could help replace Talib. Though Cromartie said he’d like to return to the Jets, if New England comes calling and is willing to up the ante, why wouldn’t he head north?
Cromartie spent his first four seasons with the San Diego Chargers, a team that now is in desperate need of help at the cornerback position. The Bolts need to bolster their secondary in more ways than one, so perhaps adding a veteran like Cromartie could be one piece of the puzzle.
It’ll be a similar scenario with the San Francisco 49ers, a team that needs help in the secondary but is very much cash-strapped. Jim Harbaugh may be able to find a niche for Cromartie as the team looks to replace a handful of starting defensive backs, and he could come for a reasonably low cost.