The Buccaneers are in the discussion to pursue virtually every cornerback on the market this offseason. From Dee Milliner of Alabama to Sean Smith of the Dolphins, Tampa Bay has been noted as a possible destination for them all. Our mock drafts and free agent profiles on The Pewter Plank this offseason have featured cornerbacks, and we realize this is an area most Buccaneer fans want to see drastic improvement.
Most websites have Aqib Talib as one of the best corners available this offseason. He’s obviously not going to be returning to Tampa any time soon, so Mark Dominik will have to consider other options. A possibility comes from Dallas, as Cowboy cornerback Mike Jenkins is a free agent this offseason. Jenkins is a former USF Bull, and his ability to play cornerback means the Buccaneers should welcome him back to the Bay area with open arms, if the price is right.
Jenkins isn’t the tallest corner, at 5 feet, 10 inches tall. He weighs in around 200 pounds, so he does have some weight to use as leverage. He is strong, and doesn’t back down from a challenge against a receiver. He’s got the ball skills and enough speed to keep up with faster receivers and make big plays down the field. See an example here, as he does his best Ronde Barber imitation and picks off Donovan McNabb.
The Cowboys’ additions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne this past offseason bumped Jenkins out of his starting spot, but it’s not clear why. The Cowboys aren’t always known for logical player personnel decisions, but to bring in Brandon Carr to replace Mike Jenkins didn’t seem to be the drastic upgrade that justifies bumping a first round pick from the starting lineup. According to Football Outsiders’ advanced stats from 2011, Jenkins gave up fewer yards per play and had a higher success rate in terms of getting stops as compared to Carr.
So what makes Jenkins stand out? He’s likely to be just as good as Sean Smith or other top free agents, but come at a cheaper cost. He’s been slightly unfairly pushed to the sidelines, and deserves a second chance. And who knows, maybe a return to Raymond James would remind him of his days at South Florida when he led one of the most ferocious defenses in college football. If Jenkins is available for a reasonable price (up to what was paid for Eric Wright seems reasonable), he would be a valuable addition to the Buccaneer defense.