There were murmurs of a forthcoming move in the Ravens’ secondary.
Most of those whispers were on the trade front — the Ravens logjam at wide receiver could have opened some doors. However, Harbaugh lamented how in these times, even if there are needs on the roster, teams have a tough time prying valuable assets from opponents.
The Ravens found a loophole in this situation.
As teams around the league crunch rosters to meet preseason benchmarks, sometimes, valuable players teams often hold so closely may slip through the cracks. Especially when teams are disenchanted with the production received versus expected — as was likely the case with the Chargers in March, and Vikings recently, who in trimming their roster to 75, cut ties with cornerback Derek Cox, a player signed a year prior by San Diego to a four-year, $20 million contract.
Cox, who stands 6-foot-1, just under 200-pounds, played his college ball in the FBS at William & Mary — in the same conference as Flacco’s alma mater, Delaware (CAA). Cox was a standout at cornerback, but despite possessing impressive size for a corner, he failed to receive an invite to the scouting combine in 2009. Despite this snub, he impressed plenty of people in the scouting process.
It was at his pro day that Cox got his chance to show his true talent, recording an impressive 4.39 40-yard dash time, a 36.5″ vertical, and an astounding 11-foot-8 broad jump. As a result of his standout measurables, coupled with a strong college career that saw him notch seven interceptions, the Jacksonville Jaguars traded up to draft Cox in the third-round, 73rd overall — the eighth cornerback off the board.
Cox stepped into a starting role immediately — something not often seen from players at the FBS ranks, and his inexperience showed. He posted the single worst coverage grade in the NFL (-16.4) in 2009, according to Pro Football Focus. However, Cox still managed to finish his rookie season with four interceptions, and began the 2010 season across from Rashean Mathis once more. After a rocky start, he lost that job before earning one more chance in Week 7 of the 2010 season.
Cox seized that opportunity.
In Week 8 against the Cowboys, Cox intercepted two passes. After a couple of rocky starts, Cox really asserted himself as a playmaker from Week 12 onwards. He finished the season with four interceptions again, only this time, in just 11 games. And his performance towards the end of the year was that of a shutdown cornerback, essentially defending the same number of passes he allowed to be caught. At 6-foot-1 and with his speed, Cox was finally coming into his own in Jacksonville.
Starting the season as the starter in 2011, Cox began strong with an impressive display against the Titans. However an injury to his chest shelfed him for Week 2, and then a groin tweak in Week 3 put him on the sidelines for the next three games. In his return — against the Ravens — Cox allowed just one reception for 6 yards, despite being targeted six times. He was targeted six times in each of the following two weeks, but allowed just five combined receptions. He played one more game that season, again demonstrating impressive shutdown qualities, but a knee injury knocked him out for the rest of 2011.
In Pro Football Focus’ “Secret Superstars” feature, they focused on Cox heading into 2012. Take a peak at this breakdown of his production in his 12 games of 2011:
Cox allowed the lowest catch percentage of any of the above cornerbacks, many of whom represent the elite in the NFL. The one detraction seems to be a lack of big plays, however, the steadiness that Cox brings to the field — when healthy — is something teams covet.
In 2012, Cox again played just twelve games, however his production was impressive once more. Tallying four interceptions, he held Reggie Wayne to 42 yards combined in two games, while shutting down a rookie A.J. Green to the tune of one catch for just eight yards.
Cox actually had allowed just one touchdown over his past 21 games by the time the 2013 offseason came around. And he was rewarded handsomely.
The San Diego Chargers signed Cox to a four-year, $20 million deal expecting him to fill a role in the starting lineup for years to come. After all, at age 26, Cox seemingly had his best years ahead, and only injuries hampered his development thus far.
In his one season in San Diego, Cox again had a shortened season, playing 11 of 16 games (losing his starting job half way through) and finishing with just one interception. They cut ties at the end of the season, saving the $4.25 million owed to Cox in 2014, and he caught on with Minnesota before being recently cut when the Vikings trimmed the roster to 75.
And so, here we are with Derek Cox the most recent addition to the Baltimore Ravens.
With the cornerback situation as currently constructed, any depth is good depth. However, for a player with Cox’s track record to come aboard, this looks like a very savvy addition. The ability of Cox to shutdown an opposing receiver in one-on-one situations is very handy, and should allow the defense even more flexibility. He likely will battle with Asa Jackson for the third cornerback role, and at the least, takes a big step towards solidifying the positional depth.
If he can stay healthy — albeit something he hasn’t done to this point — he could become another under-the-radar pick up that pundits praise, a la Corey Graham.
Welcome to Baltimore, Derek. Excited to see what you can add to the fold.