Cortland Finnegan must play up to big contract


Around the League has examined one key figure under pressure on each team heading into the 2012 season. Our next stop: The St. Louis Rams

Under Pressure: Cortland Finnegan

A lot of things have to go wrong for your franchise to finish 2-14. Inadequacies exist up and down the roster as struggles in one unit bleed into the next. In short, you're a mess.

Under Pressure

Around the League will examine one key player under pressure on each team heading into the 2012 season:

AFC East
Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots
AFC North
Bengals | Browns | Ravens | Steelers
AFC South
Colts | Jaguars | Texans | Titans
AFC West
Broncos | Chargers | Chiefs | Raiders
NFC East
Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Redskins
NFC North
Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
NFC South
Buccaneers | Falcons | Panthers | Saints
NFC West
49ers | Cardinals | Rams | Seahawks

The secondary was a particular area of concern for the St. Louis Rams, who opened up their war chest to reel in Cortland Finnegan to serve as the team's No. 1 cornerback.

Finnegan didn't come cheap. In fact, his five-year, $50 million contract included the most guaranteed money ($26.5 million) for any player in the history of the position.

In other words, Finnegan is being paid to be a premier corner. But is that asking too much for the six-year veteran?

The numbers -- at least last season -- tell us no. Football Outsiders (via Rotoworld) ranked Finnegan as the league's best coverage corner last season in terms of yards-per-attempt allowed. Finnegan's 4.3 YPA put him ahead of Houston Texans slot CB Brice McCain and then-Philadelphia Eagles CB Asante Samuel's 4.4 mark. Pro Football Focus graded Finnegan similarly. Both sites had him vastly improved over a pedestrian 2010 campaign.

Finnegan chose the Rams over several other potential suitors in part because of his strong relationship with new Rams coach Jeff Fisher. The pair worked together for five seasons in Tennessee, and that familiarity -- both from a system and personal standpoint -- attracted Finnegan.

"I knew what he stood for, the defense itself, just having familiarity with that," Finnegan told NFL Network this week. "I loved every part about it. Coach has always believed in the players, he's a real players' coach and he's someone you want to follow."

Finnegan will be 28 when the season begins, so the Rams should have prime seasons still ahead of them. But Finnegan won't be given much margin for error. He's now in the big boys club at his position, and with great salary comes great responsibility.

Players like Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha are scrutinized on a weekly basis. Finnegan will be under the microscope in much the same way for the Rams.