There are likely few suggestions that can approach unanimity when it comes to what the Pittsburgh Steelers should do this offseason. That much we well know, even if we also know that much of the fringe suggestions tend to come from less-informed sources without a great understanding of the salary cap or the team’s tendencies.
One of the few proposals that nearly everybody seems to agree upon, however—particularly among those who do their utmost to stay informed—is that the Steelers ought to make it a priority to re-sign cornerback William Gay, provided that he is not offered an outlandish contract.
The proposition of such an off-kilter contract to me seems unlikely, given that he is already 31 and heading into his 10th NFL season, even if his play over the course of the past three seasons would merit a pay increase.
Much of that pay increase, however, will be offset by the fact that he is three years older. Brice McCain, a marginally comparable player with extensive starts under his belt the last two years, has been netting two-year, $5 million deals, for example, though Gay’s play has been at a higher level.
Still, there largely seems to be consensus that retaining Gay is close to a no-brainer provided that the contract is reasonable. But Pro Football Focus proposes otherwise, arguing that the Steelers should let Gay walk in free agency, as they once did during the 2012 offseason.
Noting his age and arguing that his work in coverage has been “trending down over recent seasons”, the site contents that the team should consider parting company for good and calling it a day on their eight-year-with-a-one-year-detour relationship.
Based on their tracking, Gay has recorded 26 missed tackles over the span of the past two seasons, evenly distributed between 2014 and 2015, while his yards-per-reception statistic has been climbing since his return to Pittsburgh in 2013.
PFF also notes that Gay was credited as the player in coverage on five touchdowns given up in 2014, although they do not note a figure for the 2015 season, and some have credited him with no touchdowns allowed this past year.
It may stand to reason that Gay’s numbers have gone up, given that 2015 is the first year of his career during which he was a starter from opening day to the season finale. He has been placed in a position that he has never before occupied in his career, meaning that he has drawn stiffer assignments, with less help, and done so more frequently.
PFF’s suggestions also seem to come from a place of limited understanding of the Steelers’ history, their current roster situation, and their financial commitments. While every team would like to upgrade their secondary, allowing their best cornerback to walk in free agency would not seem to be an overly prudent move, even if he would be regarded as below the league average for a team’s top cornerback.