Giants’ dire cornerback dilemma puts added pressure on James Bradberry

The need certainly seems to be there. Unless you ask Joe Judge.

The first-year head coach knows more than anyone what he has on his roster and when he scans the list of cornerbacks, there is James Bradberry as a given and then everyone else as, well, something else.

As situations go, this one appears to be dire. As in: A “Help Needed” sign erected for all to see.

No such sign has been commissioned by Judge.

“Our priority is to develop the players we have on the roster and look for any talent available out on the street,” Judge said Wednesday. “I don’t care if it’s a first-year player or a tenth-year player. We’re looking for good players to help build this program.

“To answer the question pretty direct: It is a priority to have a veteran? No, it’s not.”

If this indeed is the case, Bradberry’s importance is magnified. He signed a three-year, $43.5 million deal as the Giants’ top free-agent priority, the money forked over by general manager Dave Gettleman, who with the Panthers in 2016 took Bradberry out of Samford with a second-round pick.

Bradberry, 27, is going to have to lead a group short on experience and pedigree, a newcomer and suddenly the veteran in the room.

James BradberryMatthew Swensen/Giants.com

“It’s been pretty cool but of course I’m on a new team so I’m learning every day too, with them,” Bradberry said. “I try to teach them things that might come up, like when we’re watching film that I might know and help them.”

The plan going in was to pair Bradberry with DeAndre Baker, a 2019 first-round pick, with Sam Beal also in the mix for playing time. That plan went awry and is now defunct. Baker is on the Exempt List and is facing four felony armed robbery charges in Broward County, Fla. Beal decided to opt out for the season, citing COVID-19 concerns.

The Giants this week thought they had a deal in the works with Ross Cockrell, who visited and started the coronavirus testing protocols. Cockrell was with the Giants in 2017 and played in 14 games for the Panthers in 2019 – starting alongside Bradberry – but a deal could not be worked out.

“That’s just something, front office would have a better answer for,” Judge said. “We talked with several players, it doesn’t always work out when you’re doing negotiations of contracts.”

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The leftovers are, well, pretty much leftovers. Corey Ballentine and Grant Haley are youngsters who had their ups and downs last season, more suited to slot duty. Julian Love was impressive at times as a rookie – as a safety. Montre Hartage, undrafted out of Northwestern, was on the Dolphins’ practice squad in 2019 but is more of a safety. Christian Angulo, a 6-foot-2 corner, spent four years at Cincinnati before playing last season at Hampton. Dravon Askew-Henry most recently played for the New York Guardians in the XFL and is a cousin, by marriage, of Darrelle Revis.

There are high hopes for rookie Darnay Holmes, a fourth-round pick from UCLA, the player most likely to see his playing time rise with the absences of Baker and Beal – if Holmes, considered a nickel corner, can handle it. Another rookie, Chris Williamson, is a seventh-round pick from Minnesota.

Translation: Bradberry has to be worth every dollar the Giants shelled out for him.

“What I’ve really seen with him in person so far is he comes to work every day with a purpose, he’s intent in the meetings, he takes diligent care of his body off the field and you can tell he’s learned through his time in the league, as to how to prepare himself for a season,” Judge said.

As to be expected, there are not a bunch of proven cornerbacks sitting at home waiting for their phones to ring. Logan Ryan, 29, Aquib Talib, 34, Tramon Williams, 37, and Javien Elliott, 27, all have reasons to pique the interest of the Giants but none is a slam-dunk signing.

Ryan, 29, is the most surprising player still on the market, given he is healthy, a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots and played in all 16 games last season for the Titans. Ryan and Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham worked together in New England.

“All we can do is worry about the guys we have in the room,” Bradberry said. “If you look in the room right now I feel we have a lot of ability and we’re gonna get the job done, no matter what they ask us to do. That’s our mindset.’’