The New York Football Giants were hit with a surprise on May 14 when a warrant for former first-round-pick Deandre Baker’s arrest was made public. Baker, a starting cornerback, was charged with four counts of Armed Robbery with a Firearm and four counts of Aggravated Assault with a Firearm by the Miramar, Florida police department.
The early reports far from paint Baker in an innocent light, and if true could cause an unexpectedly prompt ending to his time in New York. As a result of this many have already thought about potential replacements for Baker; fans and reporters alike have suggested players like Logan Ryan, Dre Kirkpatrick and even former Giant B.W. Webb.
But what if the best option is no signing at all.
The Giants were hoping Baker would take a leap in his second year, projecting to start opposite free agent signing James Bradberry. Bradberry, like Baker, does his best work in zone coverage, leading many to think the duo would be a match made in heaven. However, if Baker didn’t take the step the organization hoped for there is still plenty of unproven talent behind him.
The Giants acquired a potential steal in the fourth round of the NFL Draft when they selected UCLA’s Darnay Holmes. While slightly undersized, Holmes is a feisty, competitive corner who should fit in well with the culture the Giants are looking to create. Holmes is very physical, and a willing tackler. He’s a far from finished product, but his work ethic could impress the new coaching staff, and maybe he could earn himself playing time.
Along with Holmes, the Giants return two young corner’s in Corey Ballentine and Sam Beal. Beal, a former third-round-pick of the supplementary draft has struggled with injuries thus far in his career. After missing his rookie season, and part of last season due to injury, Beal appeared in six games, starting three. Ballentine, a former sixth-round pick, appeared in 13 games his rookie season, starting two. Neither were overly impressive, but Pro Football Focus has Beal rated as the better of the two with an overall grade of 53.9, which was even higher than Baker’s 48.9. Ballentine on the other hand struggled mightily, earning a grade of 36.6. But his 80.8 grade in run-defense was good for eight in the league, suggesting there’s a potential role for him on the defense.
If the Giants were a team who seemed to be immediate contenders like the Buffalo Bills or the New Orleans Saints, the decision to sign a veteran like Ryan would be an easy one; it would be one extra step towards a Super Bowl. That’s easily justifiable. But that is not the position the Giants find themselves. They are coming off of a 4-12 season, with a brand new, first time head coach, an inexperienced defensive coordinator and a quarterback who is entering his first full season as a starter, not exactly a recipe for success.
This season was meant as a building step to regain past glory, not a season where the expectations were to be contenders. Head coach Joe Judge’s playoff hopes were dim from the start, and were practically shut after a quick glance at their schedule.
The best-case scenario for the organization is that they find a competent starting corner that they could develop. The worst case, the team was running a calculated risk with starting Baker anyway, so if he, nor any other corner proves themself, they can address the need next offseason. The team could likely sign a veteran like Ryan or Kirkpatrick next offseason, or look to the draft where potentially elite talents like Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II, or Ohio State’s Shaun Wade will be available.
The Giants may not need to address cornerback at all depending on how Baker’s legal troubles pan out. But if they do, there is young talent that the team has invested in developing that should be given a chance, instead of going in on a veteran stop gap.