As we covered last night, Pittsburgh Steelers free agent cornerback Brandon Boykin is expected to be taking his first free agent visit of the period soon, set to take a trip to see the Panthers brass on Monday, a few weeks into the start of the new league year, which is longer than most would have expected it to take.
For those who are still holding out hope that the fifth-year cornerback might find his way back to Pittsburgh, however, I would urge caution over getting your hopes up he manages to find his way out of Carolina without having inked a contract, because it will not be the only visit that he intends to take.
Not long after Jeremy Fowler of ESPN initially reported the new of Boykin scheduling a visit with the Panthers, Ian Rapoport later Tweeted that Carolina was just one of four teams “looking to bring him in”, though he did not name any of the other teams potentially involved in his market, nor has there since been any further elaboration from other sources. Fowler also noted in the above article that other teams were pursuing him.
It was never overly likely that Boykin’s tenure in Pittsburgh would be a long one. The Steelers only pursued a trade for him when he was in the final year of his rookie contract after learning that their rookie second-round draft pick, Senquez Golson, would miss the entirety of his rookie season.
And the reason that they agreed to the trade was that it would cost them a relatively modest sum given the proven veteran depth and presence that he provided for the team last year. For his services—even if they did not utilize said services as most would have cared for—the team only forfeited a fifth-round draft pick, with a fourth-round draft pick having been in play if he were to have played more than twice the number of snaps he ended up playing.
As it stands, the Steelers have made a number of moves in free agency already, re-signing close to a half-dozen of their own players, while also signing three outside free agents. While they had some cap room to work with this offseason, however, they have exhausted most of their cap space to less than $3 million, among the very least amount of room relative to other teams around the league.
Should he fail to sign a contract with the Panthers on Monday, he should at least begin to establish a baseline for his market value as he shops his skills to the other teams that are interested in bringing him in for a visit. While he may not have been part of the first wave of free agency, we have seen that players can still sign strong contracts as we tick toward April.
It would seem that the delay in his market might indicate that a lot of teams around the league do view him as a slot corner, as was the case in Philadelphia, and then in Pittsburgh as well, which will affect his earning potential. But now we at least know that his market is beginning to surface, and it will be interesting to see where he lands and for how much.