There is now only a short period of time between the present date and the start of the new league year. The Pittsburgh Steelers must have as much of their house in order by then, including, hopefully, the arrangement of as many deals as possible with those free agents they would like to retain.
Top on their list is surely cornerback Cameron Sutton, the seventh-year veteran who has spent his entire career in Pittsburgh. He has largely improved every season and saw his biggest role in 2022 as their number one corner after the team moved on from Joe Haden.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, that doesn’t help his market value, which Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Ray Fittipaldo estimates is likely in the range of $10-12 million. Those are the figures he gave in yesterday’s chat when asked for his best guess on what Sutton’s contract will look like.
He also said he expects the cornerback to be first on their priority list, followed by defensive end Larry Ogunjobi, linebacker Robert Spillane, and safety Terrell Edmunds. One would think that Zach Gentry, the tight end, has to fit in there as well, and perhaps the other safety, Damontae Kazee.
Pittsburgh, like most teams, likes to get its most significant deals done before players have the chance to hit the open market. The window for that is closing, however. Truth be told, it would seem foolish for Sutton to accept any reasonable offer before then; he’ll surely never have a better opportunity to make money than he will next week.
A third-round draft pick in 2017 out of Tennessee, Sutton found himself waiting in the wings for much of his career. That happened to be the same year Haden fell into their lap after the Cleveland Browns cut him that August. They were still nursing hopes of Artie Burns being something at that point, as well, with William Gay at the end of his career and Mike Hilton at the beginning of his.
While he got some starting opportunities here and there due to injury, Sutton did not have a consistent, regular role until the 2021 season after re-signing with the team on a two-year, $9 million contract. The 2022 season was certainly the best of his career, so free agency is coming at an ideal time.
Matt Barrow of ESPN recently estimated him to be the 22nd-ranked free agent heading into the start of the new league year. He was ranked third among cornerbacks, behind only Jamel Dean of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and James Bradberry of the Philadelphia Eagles. He ranked 13th overall among defensive players.
Are the Steelers willing to pay him, say, $12 million per season? Having just turned 28 years old, I suppose they may be amenable to offering a contract the length of four or five seasons, which would make him no older than 32 at the end of it. That would work out to a $60 million offer—about five times what he’s made up to this point in his career.