During his Wednesday press conference to close out the 2015 season, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t sound overly optimistic when asked if cornerback Cortez Allen would ever be able to become an impact player on defense. Why should he? After all, Allen has only started 7 games since signing a lucrative contract prior to the start of the 2014 season. Additionally, when he did start, he played poorly. While I certainly understand why most people are ready to move on from Allen right now, there are plenty of good reasons as to why he should be kept around until at least the final few round of cuts that will take place a few weeks prior to the start of the 2016 regular season.
For starters, the Steelers already have $13.031 million invested in Allen since he signed his new contract in 2014. Secondly, while Allen is set to count $5.75 million against the team’s salary cap in 2016, cutting him prior to June 1 will only save the team $1.7 million in cap space. However, when you take into account that Allen would need to be displaced in the top 51 salaries upon him being released, the team would essentially only feel a real cap savings of roughly $1.2 million. That’s peanuts.
Also, many need to keep in mind that as of right now, Allen, Senquez Golson, Doran Grant and Isaiah Frey are the only cornerbacks under contract for the 2016 season with Ross Cockrell soon to join them. Three of those five players, Golson, Grant and Frey, have combined to play one regular season defensive snap during their NFL careers and only one of them, Golson, is lock to make the final 53-man roster in 2016.
Will the Steelers go after a high-profile cornerback during the free agent signing period? Judging by the team’s history since general manager Kevin Colbert took over in 2000, they won’t. Will they likely pick a top-rated cornerback with the 25th overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft? Probably not.
So what are the Steelers other options? I think it’s obvious they’ll need to re-sign veteran cornerback William Gay and I won’t be surprised if veteran cornerback Antwon Blake returns on a one-year deal for the minimum as well. As for one-year rental Brandon Boykin, I doubt he’ll be back unless he receives a very cold shoulder at the start of free agency.
The Steelers will be allowed to carry 90 players on their offseason roster and Allen should be allowed to be one of them, assuming his knee passes a physical and his attitude is in check. He should also be back in Latrobe once again fighting for one of the two outside cornerback spots. Should his efforts fall flat once again during the summer practices, the Steelers can release him after their third preseason game. Such a move would then clear $4.05 million in cap space in 2016 prior to roster displacement with a dead money charge of $2.7 million carrying over to 2017.
Will the 2016 season be the year that Allen bounces back? Tomlin, like many of you, isn’t so sure it will be. Should he be given one last opportunity to bounce back this summer? Unlike many of you, I think he should.