Cornerbacks in the National Football League do not have it easy in 2014. League rules and regulations favor quarterbacks and wide receivers over defensive backs, and thus corners have to be able to do more than just keep up with speedy and lengthy offensive targets.
CBs have to play within strict NFL rules while attempting to prevent passes from becoming completions.
The days of cornerbacks being able to even slightly hand-check receivers are nearly gone, and that is just one reason why the top DBs in the NFL are worth more money than they were paid even a couple of years ago. Shutdown corners are hard to come by these days.
When a team finds one, it had better do whatever is necessary to keep that player for the foreseeable future.
These are the 10 highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL for the 2014 season.
All values courtesy of Spotrac
10. Ike Taylor — Pittsburgh Steelers: $7,692,403 cap hit
The veteran of 11 NFL seasons had a rough go of it on the field in 2013. He failed to register a single interception for the first time since his rookie campaign all the way back in 2003. Taylor also lost his starting gig for a handful of games last fall.
This current era of the Steelers, one in which the team twice hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy in celebration over the past decade, is coming to an end. Taylor, who will turn 35 years old next spring, is set to become a free agent after the upcoming campaign. His future with the club and within the NFL as an active player is in limbo as the fall season approaches.
9. Aqib Talib — Denver Broncos: $7,906,250 cap hit
The Denver offense, led by all-time great and living legend quarterback Peyton Manning, put up historic numbers during the 2013 regular season. Manning also outplayed New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game.
The Broncos then ran into the defense of the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl, and it all came crashing down for Manning and company.
The Broncos responded by bolstering the team’s defense in the offseason, in part by signing the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England cornerback. Talib registered four interceptions in his first four games last season, but his production then tapered off. Denver, needless to say, will be hoping to see more consistency from the free agent acquisition.
8. Alterraun Verner — Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $8.25 million cap hit
Verner had a banner season in 2013 while with the Tennessee Titans. He had a career-high five interceptions, and he found the end zone on the defensive side of the football for the first time of his NFL career. His production landed him a four-year deal with Tampa Bay that will guarantee Verner no less than $14 million.
The early days of Verner’s Bucs career have not gone to the liking of player or club. He injured his hamstring on the third day of training camp. Verner has yet to make a true debut for his new team, and there are some concerns about what his condition will be come September.
7. Jason McCourty — Tennessee Titans: $8.3 million cap hit
Casual fans who watch football but who don’t follow the Titans may recognize Jason and his twin brother Devin from their television commercial. McCourty earned his current NFL contract with his play on the field. He accumulated eight total interceptions from 2010 through 2012; four of those occurred during the 2012 season.
McCourty did not, however, have an interception last season.
McCourty is currently signed through the conclusion of the 2017 season. His dead money value drops down to $1.8 million in 2016, however, and it’s possible he and the Titans could revisit his deal at that time.
6. Leon Hall — Cincinnati Bengals: $8.7 million cap hit
Hall is undeniably a top cornerback when he is on the field. He had a total of 22 picks from 2007 through 2012. Hall had no fewer than two interceptions in regular seasons in each of his first six years in the pros.
Things were going well for the 29-year-old early into the 2013 campaign. Hall accumulated an interception and 20 combined tackles in five contests. That all came to a halt in October, though, when he suffered a torn Achilles for the second time of his career.
It is believed that Hall will be fully recovered and 100 percent healthy for the start of the 2014 season.
5. Tramon Williams — Green Bay Packers: $9.5 million cap hit
Williams has been a consistent starter for the Packers over the past seven seasons. After notching a single pick in 2007, he has grabbed a total of 24 interceptions. Williams has also missed only one regular season contest since joining Green Bay.
Despite all of his accomplishments, the status of Williams with the Packers remains in doubt.
Williams is, as of the posting of this piece, set to become a free agent after the 2014 campaign. His pursuit of a contract extension has gotten off to a slow start. A knee knock has kept Williams sidelined through the preseason.
4. Lardarius Webb — Baltimore Ravens: $10.5 million cap hit
Webb is, with teammate Jimmy Smith, half of one of the top secondary combos in all of the NFL. After tearing his ACL in 2012, Webb responded by grabbing two interceptions last season. He also notched a career-high 74 combined tackles in 2013.
The 28-year-old signed up through the completion of the 2017 campaign is one of several players featured on this list who was banged up this August. Webb has been nursing a lower back injury during the summer. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh recently told reporters that he will be shutting Webb down until the regular season kicks off.
3. Johnathan Joseph — Houston Texans: $11.25 million cap hit
Fans and analysts from all over the country were stunned by how shockingly bad the Texans were in 2013. After winning the first two games on the schedule, Houston dropped 14 consecutive contests. While pick-six machine quarterback Matt Schaub is now on the Oakland Raiders, the Texans are still, on paper, missing a true franchise QB.
Joseph cannot and should not be blamed for the team’s woes. He has, since joining Houston from the Bengals in 2011, grabbed 10 total interceptions. Joseph also notched 148 combined tackles over that time.
The 30-year-old defensive back is signed with the Texans through the end of 2015.
2. Joe Haden — Cleveland Browns: $12,127,895 cap hit
The Browns have done plenty wrong since…well, since 1999 to be honest about it. Over the past year alone, the franchise fired a first-time head coach, thoroughly botched the search for a new coach, blew up the team’s front office, settled on third-tier coaching candidate Mike Pettine, and then staged a sham of a quarterback competition that did few favors for both unproven veteran Brian Hoyer and rookie phenom Johnny Manziel.
Signing Haden to an extension that will keep him with the Browns for at least the next four seasons was not a mistake.
Haden is a true shutdown corner, a defensive back who hasn’t quite earned the status held by Seattle superstar Richard Sherman. At just 25 years old, Haden should only improve in the near future. He and standout rookie Justin Gilbert could be the next great secondary duo in the NFL.
1. Brandon Carr — Dallas Cowboys: $12.217 million cap hit
The Cowboys made Carr a cornerstone piece of the Dallas secondary when the team signed the former Kansas City Chiefs player to a five-year deal in 2012. That contract guaranteed the 28-year-old $25.5 million. Carr’s cap hits and dead money values will both be over $12 million up through the end of the 2015 campaign.
His first two years with his current club went well. Carr grabbed three picks in each of those seasons, and he has 124 total combined tackles as a member of the Cowboys. Dallas will be hoping that Carr bumps up his stats and his overall play heading into 2014 in order to justify the player’s mammoth contract.