By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Malcolm Butler is a 100 percent certainty to move on from the Patriots this offseason, and so New England is likely going to be in the market for a cornerback.
It is possible that the team feels comfortable in sticking Eric Rowe in the No. 2 position and leaving the likes of Jonathan Jones and Cyrus Jones to battle it out for the No. 3 spot while also drafting a corner. But with the Patriots figuring to still be in contention for a Super Bowl, they may seek a more established player to lock down one side of the field.
For that, NFL.com’s senior analyst Gil Brandt said that Bashaud Breeland might fit the bill.
“Breeland is not as good as A.J. Bouye, but he does remind me of last year’s marquee free-agent cornerback,” Brandt wrote in a story identifying good matches for free agents around the league. “Breeland, who has shown in his four years with the Redskins that he can cover the opposition’s best receiver, would pair nicely with Stephon Gilmore in New England or Xavien Howard in Miami.”
(Brandt listed the Rams and Packers as potential landing spots for Butler, if you were interested.)
Breeland was drafted out of Clemson by Washington in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. He’s played in 60 out of a possible 64 games, starting 57 of them and recording eight interceptions, 59 passes defensed, seven forced fumbles, one sack, and 271 total tackles. He returned an interception for a touchdown in 2017, and also got his first work as a returner, bringing back 10 kicks with a 20.8-yard average. He’s played in one playoff game in his career, recording seven tackles (five solo) with a forced fumble in a loss to Green Bay in the 2015 postseason. Pro Football Focus listed him as Washington’s best defensive player for that season.
“I feel like I’m a top corner in this league,” Breeland said in December. “It hasn’t been shown, I haven’t gotten that publicity, but I feel like with my confidence level and how I believe in myself, I feel like I’m a top corner in this league. I’m just not one of those players that’s flashy, that’s going to make the flashy play that you want to see, you know what I’m saying? Really, what I do, I bring a lot more to the table — physicality, tackling. I’m a tackling corner. And I play my guy. I make plays.”
The Patriots might also notice that Breeland was a lockdown corner against the Eagles in late October, allowing zero receptions on four targets. Considering the Patriots’ pass defense struggled to even limit that Eagles offense with their backup quarterback, such a showing certainly stands out. He also worked extremely well in the slot in 2016, and his tackling ability is something Belichick always looks for in a corner.