The Arizona Cardinals didn't make any free agent splashes during the first week, but yesterday they landed one of the best corners on the market in Bryant McFadden. McFadden's deal is a two year contract worth $10 million and he's expected to compete with Roderick Hood for the starting job during training camp. Regardless of who wins though, this is a significant upgrade for the secondary and it'll allow Antrel Rolle to focus on free safety, instead of flexing down to play nickel corner. The trio of DRC, McFadden and Hood provide a deep and talented group of corners who are capable of giving any passing attack thier fair share of problems.
McFadden was a second round pick in 2005 (62nd overall) out of Florida State and has always been a very physical corner. He's a force in the running game and can make it difficult for smaller receivers to get off the line. McFadden's a four year pro with some starting experience (18 starts) and good size (6'0 190). He struggled to become a full-time starter in Pittsburgh thanks to injuries and an attitude that didn't always mesh well with the Steelers' coaching staff, but in 2008 he seemed to turn a corner. He won the job out training camp and only a broken forearm (missed 7 starts) slowed him down. Despite the injury though, he still posted 41 tackles, a sack, eight pass breakups and two interceptions, but don't take my word for it.
What we know for sure about McFadden is that when he was healthy this year he made a solid contribution to the league's No. 1 pass defense. Perhaps we've forgotten that he had a great start to the 08 season before breaking his arm. Through six games (he was injured early in the fourth quarter of Game 6 vs. Cincinnati), he had 30 Tackles, six pass breakups and two intercepts. At that time he was second among all our DBs in tackles (tied with Troy, three behind Clark), led the team in pass breakups (one more than Troy and four more than Ike) and was second on the team in interceptions (one less than Troy, two more than Taylor, Gay, Townsend and Clark). While he was gone, Gay stepped in and did a fine job. When McFadden came back, he mostly resumed his starting duty but Gay was rewarded for his solid play by getting rotated to LCB on a regular basis. As a result McFadden's playing time was slightly reduced and his stats in the latter part of the season were not as impressive as during the first six games..............
........McFadden's statistics generally show this: He allows a high number of completions for a remarkably small number of yards. In other words he does exactly what a Cover 2 type of cornerback is supposed to do, close on the receiver and limit his gain. He rarely gets beat deep on those occasions when he is in man-coverage down the sidelines, as evidenced by his low yardage per attempt figure of 5.60 yards. Last year, from the best statistical evidence I can find, his YPA figure was a remarkable 4.5. I hope someone corrects me or provides better statistics. This year, according to Football Outsiders (who ranked Willie Gay as the No. 1 nickle back in the league), McFadden was ranked the fourth best CB in the league at closing down completions for short yardage (thus making the passing play "unsuccessful" by FO standards).
McFadden is probably our best CB at run support, which is one of the reasons why he was shifted to LCB against generally right-dominant running formations. He's stronger than Ike (and certainly Gay) and less likely to be juked out of his cleats. Also, while Ike is considered our top shutdown CB (and rightly so), the Steelers generally did not switch CBs in coverage to keep Ike on a specific receiver. The result was that McFadden had significant playing time against top receivers and, as mentioned, rarely got beat. He did give up a long pass to Boldin in the Super Bowl through a lack of concentration down the field...........................My own opinion is that anything less than $5 million per year for McFadden is an absolute steal and well worth the investment, perhaps even allowing us to release Townsend and clearing up $2 million in cap space. I'll predict that McFadden signs somewhere for $20-25 million over 4-5 years and I hope it's with the Steelers.
Obviously, McFadden made an impression on some Steelers fans with his play and I wouldn't be surprised one bit if he makes the same impression on each of us. Our number one priority next off season might be trying to extend McFadden for several more years.
We'll get much more into how this signing effects the secondary, the rest of free agnecy, and the draft as the day wears on, but for now I'll just leave you with I think this is a great deal for the Cardinals. McFadden had to have entered free agency thinking he'd get a much larger deal and that should keep him highly motivated for the next two seasons. Having a player of his caliber at $5 million per season is well worth it and should reap dividends for the next two years. What do you think though? Will he win the starting job? Will he shore up a secondary that allowed 36 passing TDs in 2007?