The NFL is a dog-eat-dog world. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves learned that the hard way this past week. On Sunday, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arian benched the former first-round pick; two days later, the defensive back was cut from the team.
On Wednesday, however, the Texans claimed Hargreaves off waivers. While the corner will undoubtedly be playing with a chip on his shoulder, what will he bring to the Houston defense?
Vernon Hargreaves’ road to the NFL
Growing up in Florida, Vernon Hargreaves shone athletically. In addition to running track, he shone on the high school football field. As a senior, Hargreaves earned himself a place in the Under Armour All-America Game; he would leave the field with MVP honors. He was ranked as the nation’s top cornerback prospect and unsurprisingly had his pick of college programs.
Hargreaves stayed close to home, enrolling at the University of Florida. Despite stepping up a level, his talent was undeniable; the cornerback started 10 games as a freshman, earning All-SEC honors. He also was named an All-American following the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
After three years with the Gators, Hargreaves decided it was time to move on. He declared for the NFL draft, forgoing his senior year.
Hargraves’ tough time in Tampa Bay
Hargreaves entered the draft as one of the top cornerbacks available and didn’t have to wait long for his name to be called. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected him with the 11th overall pick of the 2016 draft, keeping the defensive back close to him.
Hargreaves signed a four-year contract with Tampa and entered his rookie year as the third cornerback on the depth chart. He started every game that year, finishing the season with 68 solo tackles, one interception, and nine passes defended. After that bright start, however, things started to sputter.
During the 2017 season, Hargreaves suffered a hamstring injury; after sitting out five games, he ended the year on injured reserve. 2018 was even worse, as the corner sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 1.
Hargreaves seemed to get back on track this season but was benched last weekend after head coach Bruce Arians criticized the defensive back’s lack of hustle. Shortly after the benching, however, Hargreaves was cut.
Slotting into the Houston Texans’ secondary
Shortly after Hargreaves hit the waiver wire, the Houston Texans snapped the cornerback up. While both the player and the team are still in the honeymoon phase, the move looks like it could work out for both sides.
The Texans picked up a talented player without having to pay a premium on the trading block or free agent market. Head coach Bill O’Brien said that he studied Hargreaves during his draft year and should be able to make good use of him; the Texans’ pass defense has struggled this year and, without J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, the unit could use all the help it can get.
As for Hargreaves himself, this move gives him a chance to get a fresh start. Despite his struggles, he’s still a young player with a great deal of talent; maybe being cut will serve as a wake-up call. While there’s no excuse for refusing to hustle, perhaps a new environment can keep the corner happy and motivated.
Vernon Hargreaves now has the rest of the year to prove that he deserves a new contract with the Texans. If everything works out, he’ll be motivated, and the club will get a quality cornerback; if things don’t click, both parties go their separate ways. Either way, both the player and the team have a risk-free shot at getting what they want.