Few positions on the roster of the Buffalo Bills went through as much transition last season as cornerback. After losing Nate Clements to free agency, the Bills signed veteran Jason Webster to replace him - only to lose him in the season opener. He was replaced by Jabari Greer, who performed admirably for the rest of the season. The team has four players at the position that can play (Terrence McGee, Greer, Ashton Youboty and Kiwaukee Thomas), but general consensus holds that the Bills should look at signing a starter.
Drayton Florence might just be the man for the job. A one-time starter for the Chargers, Florence was pushed out of a starting job by the emergence of one of the league's elite corners in Antonio Cromartie. An unrestricted free agent - but probably not the biggest cornerback name available (Asante Samuel and Brian Kelly may claim those rights) - Florence may be a natural fit in Buffalo's Cover-2 defense.
Rob Zepeda is the executive editor of a top-notch Chargers blog called BoltHype - so, naturally, he knows what Florence is all about. He was kind enough to lend us some insight about the free agent-to-be; I'll kindly suggest that if you are ever looking for fan-based Chargers opinions, BoltHype should be your first stop. Here's what he had to say about Florence...
Florence was a starter for the Chargers until Antonio Cromartie exploded onto the scene. What was your opinion on Florence as a starter - a good stopgap, or a guy who could continue to improve?
D-Flo is a starter in this league. I mean, he's a pretty good player with nice size and speed and he is a pretty complete corner. As far as I'm concerned, any holes in his game are mental. It wasn't his personal lack of ability that preempted the Chargers to draft Cromartie in the first place. It was simply that the Chargers were low on cornerbacks and the ones they had on the roster weren't really known to be ballhawks. Beyond Jammer and Florence, the Chargers had nobody and were forced to draft help at cornerback.
When is Florence at his best, in your opinion - defending the run, man/press coverage, or sitting in a zone and making plays coming forward?
D-Flo isn't a guy who is afraid of contact and is pretty adequate in defending the run. In coverage, I prefer to see him off the receiver with the play in front of him. He can play man coverage and was asked to play a bunch of man in San Diego but I worry for Drayton's ability to make up ground if he takes a bad jump or gets beat on a double move.
Drayton has a reputation for being somewhat of a lose cannon. To be fair, he made a marked improvement in his on-field behavior this year and that showed tremendous maturity on his part. He's a guy who doesn't really have problems off the field but come game-day, he can get mouthy and will draw an occasional personal foul. When I say the only holes in his game are mental, thats what I mean. As long as he keeps his head, and doesn't allow himself to get out of the game mentally, he's a good player.
The Chargers had a pretty nice trio of corners in Cromartie, Jammer and Florence last season. What do you think the chances are that they try to preserve that trio by re-signing Florence?
In terms of resigning with the Chargers, it would be a major coup for the organization to get him back, but they have had talks with Florence and his agent and the two sides are way off in terms of dollar amount. I had a chance to personally speak to D-Flo during training camp and the sense that I got was that this was going to be his last season as a Charger. With the emergence of Cromartie and Jammer as an elite duo, and with the Chargers taking Paul Oliver in the supplemental draft, it appears the team is ready to move on. But D-Flo is a solid, young player and I personally wouldn't mind him sticking around... but it's pretty unlikely he will.
Anyone sold on Florence yet? Personally, after this interview, I believe Florence is one of the better value free agents available this off-season. Yes, he's sure to get a significant chunk of money - because he's been a good player for a few years now - but he's a far more reasonable addition than the likes of Samuel. I specifically liked to hear that he works well in zone, is physical, and defends the run adequately. In a scheme where corners are in a position so that they don't get beat, Florence may be even better than he was in San Diego. If he doesn't cost an arm and a leg, he would look very solid lining up next to McGee in the starting lineup.
Thoughts on Florence, his impending free agency, and/or the Bills' likelihood of signing a cornerback?