The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ have been linked with virtually every cornerback on the market and in free agency this offseason, but there is one free agent corner who makes the most sense for the Buccaneers: Derek Cox. Cox was the best corner on a poor football team in Jacksonville in 2012, and his defensive backs’ coach from Jacksonville, Tony Oden, has come to Tampa Bay to assume the same position on the Buccaneers’ staff. It was reported today that these pieces might fit together well enough that Cox could be signed very soon after the new league year begins. In other words, on Tuesday at 4 o’clock, we could have our newest Buccaneer signing on the dotted line.
So what would the Buccaneers get by acquiring Derek Cox this offseason?
The four year veteran out of FCS school William and Mary has the size that Greg Schiano covets in a cornerback, weighing in at almost 200 pounds and standing over six feet tall. He’s played 47 games in his career, and started off with a bang. His rookie season was the only year in his NFL career that he played in 16 games, and he logged 4 interceptions and defended 11 passes that year. Since then, he has struggled to stay on the field, but when he’s able to play, he shows improvement and promise. He’s logged 12 career picks, and has forced one fumble in his NFL tenure.
He’s strong, and is able to use his strength to handle receivers at the line, and while he doesn’t have great mechanics as a defensive back, he has excellent burst of speed, and great straight line speed as well. He’s improved in his knowledge of the game, learning how to read and react to plays better and better as his career has worn on. Rotoworld opined Cox has “an awful lot of talent” but has struggled to stay on the field.
So how did he fare in 2012? Playing as a part of one of the weaker defenses in the league, Cox stood out by making plays on the football. He logged four interceptions, and defended 6 passes in 398 snaps as a pass coverage defender. These are impressive numbers, considering the lack of snaps as a pass defender. For reference, Sean Smith saw 625 snaps as a cover corner, and had two interceptions and 8 passes defender, meaning that Cox had a better impact on average, but struggled to stay on the field (and played on a defense that often played from behind, and faced the run more often).
The most meaningful stat that shows just how good Cox can be is his passer rating against. Using the same metrics that determine a quarterback’s passer rating, Pro Football Focus is able to determine how successful the quarterbacks of the NFL are at throwing to the receiver the defender is covering. In 2012, Derek Cox had the 11th best passer rating against as a corner in the league, among players who played at least half of their teams’ defensive snaps. He finished ahead of Antonio Cromartie and Sam Shields, and the players ahead of him are a list of some of the best corners in the league: Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson, Asante Samuel, Tim Jennings, and Champ Bailey, among others. So just in case you thought this was a bogus statistic, just look at the company he’s amongst. His QB rating against was 69.0, which if logged by a real starting QB would be 3rd worst in the NFL, in between Mark Sanchez and Chad Henne.
Cox was heavily targeted this past season, and came through with impressive numbers. He won’t be praised by most fans and TV talking heads because he spent his time in Jacksonville, but he’s a player who is still growing towards what could be incredible potential. Rotoworld’s Evan Silva projects he will sign a deal worth about six million per year. This is the perfect price for the Buccaneers to take a chance on a possible rising star. His health is a concern, but if he’s able to stay on the football field, Derek Cox could be just the guy the Buccaneers need to start rebuilding their defensive secondary.