The Atlanta Falcons announced Monday morning that they have officially signed former Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard.
The move gives the Falcons another veteran option at the cornerback position, something that is needed given the youth at that spot. Dennard, 28, developed into a bit of a fan-favorite in Cincinnati, starting 20 games over the last three seasons and demonstrating both reliable tackling and good ball skills. During his six seasons with the Bengals, Dennard recorded 274 tackles, 22 pass defenses, five tackles for a loss and three interceptions. Dennard received a 72.2 grade from Pro Football Focus for his play in 2019, which ranked 21st among qualified cornerbacks.
WHAT IT MEANS
After parting ways with Desmond Trufant this offseason, the Falcons are incredibly young at the cornerback position. Isaiah Oliver, who is entering his third season, is the most experienced projected starter for Atlanta but has just 18 starts under his belt. Opposite of Oliver, the Falcons are expected to go with first-round pick A.J. Terrell, who is talented but has yet to be tested at the NFL level. Second-year corner Kendall Sheffield is the favorite the be the team's nickel corner after a strong first season, but he also has just 11 starts.
If nothing else Dennard can be a veteran voice in the room for the young players, but there's the possibility that he steps into a starting role early on for Atlanta if he impresses the coaching staff in camp. He and Blidi Wreh-Wilson are now the elder statesmen among the Falcons' cornerbacks, and his past suggests that Dennard is more than capable of carving out a bigger role. Dennard appeared to be heading to Jacksonville earlier in free agency, but their negotiated deal ultimately fell through. At the time, however, Pro Football Focus dubbed it the Jaguars' best move of free agency.
"Darqueze Dennard has been an undervalued player playing one of the most valuable positions at slot corner the last few seasons," PFF's Anthony Treash wrote. "Among 42 qualifying slot corners since 2017, Dennard ranks 12th in slot coverage grade and has allowed the lowest catch rate on targets of 10 or more yards. Among all cornerbacks in that same period, Dennard has been the 27th most valuable in the league. Jacksonville got an absolute steal by paying him just over $4 million in each of the next three seasons."
The move also fits a trend that's been developing in Atlanta this offseason. Dennard becomes the seventh former first-round pick to be acquired by the Falcons, joining: Todd Gurley, Dante Fowler Jr., Hayden Hurst, Laquon Treadwell, Charles Harris and Deone Bucannon.