NFL Free agency hasn’t even officially started and the Steelers cornerback depth chart has undergone a major change.
Just over 1 week ago at the NFL Scouting Combine Omar Khan affirmed that resigning Cam Sutton would be a priority for the Steelers in free agency. Priorities have their limits for Pittsburgh, as the Detroit Lions have agreed to a 3 year deal with Cam Sutton totaling $33 million and with $22.5 million in guarantees.
That 11 million dollar average is high, but still only puts Sutton in the top 15 or 16 corners in the league.
- That however was too high for the Steelers.
Omar Khan responded by signing Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson to a 2 year contract. Terms of Peterson’s deal haven’t leaked yet, but last season he earned 4 million dollars – just under what Cam Sutton earned, and he had 5 interceptions and 15 passes defensed.
- In contrast, Sutton only had 3 interceptions, although he also defended 15 passes.
Patrick Peterson was originally drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2011 NFL Draft. While in Phoenix he made 8 straight Pro Bowls and was named All Pro twice. He’s played the last two seasons for the Minnesota Vikings where he started all 30 games that he has participated in.
Omar Follows Colbert Template, Takes Risk Nonetheless
Let’s not mince words – cornerback is a young man’s game in the NFL. The idea of replacing a 29 year old corner who is just budding into his prime with a 33 year old seems questionable to say the least.
Free agent cornerbacks come at a premium. And the Steelers have made these sorts of “Dollar Ball” trade offs with corners before, as they did in the 2013 off season when they let Keenan Lewis go but brought William Gay back.
But this isn’t just a cost-benefit move.
Peterson made plenty of “Splash Plays” in 2022. And the 2023 NFL Draft is said to be deep at cornerback. Even had the Steelers resigned Sutton they were likely to draft a corner. By signing Peterson the team gives itself some breathing room and avoids finding itself in the same situation it was in in 2016, when they had to reach for Artie Burns.
Doubling up on a key position in free agency and the draft was a move Kevin Colbert made many times. It seems like Omar Khan has learned the lesson.
In addition to Patrick Peterson, who cannot officially sign until Wednesday, the Steelers also have veterans Levi Wallace, Ahkello Witherspoon and Arthur Maulet under contract. James Pierre is a restricted free agent, whom the Steelers still must decide to tender or not.