The Morning After: Don't forget about The Other Guys...
These aren't the names we obsess over, but James Bradberry, Matt Milano and Allen Lazard all resembled X-Factors on Super Bowl contenders. Also inside: Why we should be skeptical of the NFLPA.
The dichotomy was immediate. When James Bradberry stepped into the cleats of Josh Norman as the No. 1 corner on a team fresh off a Super Bowl appearance, it was obvious that this cornerback was nothing like that cornerback. The 62nd overall pick in the 2016 draft out of Samford University was a man of (very) few words. It was as if the Carolina Panthers asked the football gods for a personality that was the exact opposite of Norman — or, frankly, of everything we’ve come to expect out of this position — and those gods delivered Bradberry.
We actually spent a full week together through the rookie’s first pro game, from Carolina to Denver to Carolina.
His stoicism was striking.
All Bradberry has done through the seven seasons since that week is assert himself as one of the sport’s preeminent cover corners… even if nobody has a clue. Honestly, the report that Bradberry would be one of the New York Giants’ cap casualties barely generated a ripple of national attention. A few words crawling across the bottom of the TV screen is all we saw because most chalked this up as yet another move Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll had no choice but to make. (Guilty as charged.) Yet it’s clear: the Giants should have been staying up all night performing cap gymnastics to fit Bradberry’s contract into their plans. He’s a player at a premium position squarely in his prime.
So, now, a division rival enjoys the spoils. Bradberry was sensational again in Week 4. He supplied the pivotal interception in a 29-21 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars that kept his new team — the Philadelphia Eagles — undefeated.
Afterward, vet Darius Slay didn’t hold back. As Bradberry chatted to reporters in front of his locker, Slay chimed in: “That’s the question you need to ask. You have to ask the Giants that question. That’s the question: How did you let that man out of the building like that?”
Tough and fair. Philly made Bradberry part of its all-in attack plan at the rate of $10 million for the season, a deal that’s looking like one of the best bargains in the league.
This is exactly what Week 4 of the NFL season highlighted: the complementary star.
Oh, the league was drunk on historic contracts last spring. Quarterbacks and edge rushers and wide receivers all took turns upstaging each other. However, that next wave of free agents? This is the crew that so often wins teams championships. In Philadelphia, Bradberry is proving he can still erase one side of the field. In Baltimore, 90 miles west, one of the Bills’ key re-signings from 2021 was the best player on the field: linebacker Matt Milano. He’s making the same annual money on a four-year pact. Then, when the 4 p.m. games hit, Allen Lazard looked more than capable of filling the No. 1 receiving role in Green Bay. He inked an RFA tender worth a whopping $3.986 million this season.
These three players won’t be the subject of back-and-forth screaming on First Take.
All three proved just how important they are to their respective teams going the distance.