Facebook Pixel

    Where will Eli Apple play in 2022? Jets, Vikings, and 49ers could all be in the CB market

    Where could we see Eli Apple play in 2022 after he reinvigorated his career with the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2021-22 NFL season?

    With Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple having somewhat revived his NFL career this season, what are his potential landing spots as a free agent this offseason? Let’s examine Apple’s performance with the Bengals and what that could mean for him in terms of contract value and potential landing spots.

    Eli Apple landing spots

    It has been a rollercoaster few seasons for Apple. He impressed after being traded to the New Orleans Saints in 2018. In those 10 games, he pulled in 2 interceptions while allowing just a 44.7% completion rate. However, that all turned in 2019 when he allowed 14.2 yards per completion with a completion rate of 63.2%. He left the Saints having allowed a 100.9 passer rating when targeted. Things did not improve in 2020 when he managed just two games for Carolina before being released.

    Apple did not sign with a team in 2020 but landed with the Bengals as a free agent in March 2021. That opportunity has seen his career get back on track somewhat. With the Bengals, Apple started 15 games and allowed an 86.6 passer rating. He intercepted 2 passes, conceded 3 touchdowns, and had a 60.3% completion rate allowed.

    Those numbers are an improvement for Apple, but he still likely won’t command top-tier CB numbers. Apple should have done enough to earn at least a multi-year deal and in the range of around $5 million per year.

    Which teams might be in the market for a veteran cornerback to come in and do a solid, if unspectacular, job? Let’s examine Apple’s potential landing spots.

    Apple could be a good fit with the San Francisco 49ers

    The 49ers are certainly going to be in the market to address their cornerback situation. Their only current corners under contract for next year are Ambry Thomas, Emmanuel Moseley, and Deommodore Lenoir. The problem for the 49ers is that they have a few areas they need to address, and until they move Jimmy Garoppolo, they are tight on cap space.

    They should move Garoppolo and get breathing room, but they’ll likely still have to be a little careful. That is why Apple might be an intriguing option for the team. He could come in and be an instant starter for the next couple of years. Meanwhile, the 49ers can add more depth through the draft and give them the time to develop behind Apple, Moseley, and Thomas.

    The Vikings will likely be looking to add a veteran cornerback

    In Cameron Dantzler and Harrison Hand, the Vikings have a couple of intriguing pieces. However, with Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander set to be free agents, they need to consider addressing the position this offseason. Dantzler, Hand, and Kris Boyd are not quite at the point where two or three of them can be every game starters.

    Ideally, the Vikings would look to go out and get a superstar to fill one of those spots. The problem is that they do not have the cap space to go and make that splash. They could go down the route of another player like Peterson, who looks to be beyond the prime of his career. However, a player like Apple, who could be entering that prime and comes at a lower price, could make even more sense.

    Apple could head back to New York with the Jets

    The reports from those covering the Jets that the team is comfortable with their cornerback situation make this intriguing. They certainly have some talented DBs on the roster, and they have bigger needs elsewhere. Nevertheless, that entire secondary lacks veteran know-how to really guide the group.

    Apple would be an ideal addition to fill that role. He would not cost a lot, and therefore, the Jets will not feel they have to start him if the young players are doing well. Yet, Apple would provide good competition and a knowledge of what it’s like to be a young player in the spotlights of New York. A move for Apple feels like a relatively low-risk decision for the Jets.

    The Texans could be looking to add depth to their defensive backfield

    It’s going to be fascinating to see how Lovie Smith goes about building out his defense, especially his secondary, this offseason. All six of their main cornerbacks are due to be free agents either this offseason or next. Meanwhile, the same can be said for their top five options among the safeties.

    Therefore, Smith is going to have to decide whether he brings guys back on extensions or starts rebuilding again. Apple would be a useful addition to either of those strategies. He would offer an option to start in place of Desmond King (assuming he leaves) and then have other veterans work around him or hold down one side while the team looks to the draft for their future at the position.

    A return to the Bengals would be a good option for Apple and the team

    Apple has done a really good job for the Bengals this season, and it makes sense for both sides for him to come back. Chidobe Awuzie and Apple would be a strong starting pairing, with Trae Waynes providing depth and Mike Hilton in the slot. That grouping would be really solid and allow the Bengals to invest resources elsewhere this offseason.

    Additionally, the Bengals have to make decisions around their safeties. Both Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell are due to be free agents in the next two offseasons. If Cincinnati wants to replace either one of them with a younger option, having a settled group at corner is an absolute must. Equally, bringing Apple back at a reasonable cost will open up an opportunity to pay Bates this offseason.

    Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

    Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

    Related Articles