The Pittsburgh Steelers lost their sixth free agent yesterday when cornerback Brandon Boykin signed with the NFC Champion Panthers, inking a one-year contract to play in what we can probably safely assume will be a slot corner role in Carolina’s excellent defense.
The fifth-year veteran will have now spent the past three seasons with three different teams, and while the financial terms of Boykin’s one-year contract have not yet been disclosed as of the time of this writing, one must wonder how that might have impacted his free agency process how and he was perceived by the league.
Many, in Pittsburgh at least, likely assumed that the cornerback would be among the first of the Steelers’ free agents to find a new home elsewhere, but instead he became the sixth Steelers free agent, and seventh former Steeler overall, to relocate since the start of free agency a couple of weeks ago.
The 5’10” cornerback has already had to experience the perception of him being limited to playing in the slot, where he has now spent his time for four seasons across two teams, both of whom have essentially come out and said that that is how they viewed him. But the fact that two teams were so ‘willing’ to let him walk could also play a role in how other teams perceived him.
Among those advocating this theory yesterday was Louis Riddick on ESPN, who acknowledged that he has what he described as “reservations” about the signing in spite of agreeing to it being a quality signing, as the question posed to him was framed.
He explained, “two places now who have needed a player of his kind of pedigree have gone on and moved one. I think there are some concerns about Brandon’s long-term future as far as his availability as far as whether or not he’s going to start making the turn [and] going downhill”.
While complimenting the Panthers’ front office and how they have gone about their business of building a roster in recent years, Riddick, he added that “it remains to be seen” how Boykin will perform for them, reiterating his hesitation over the fact that “two teams have already given up on him”.
While it may not be entirely accurate to say that two teams have “given up on him”, with each team facing outstanding circumstances involving a now-former coach and another team that was attempting to fill a niche need with good value after an injury occurred, it is fair to wonder if this is how Boykin’s value was framed in the minds of decision-makers for teams around the league.
After signing, Boykin did claim that he had offers from several teams on the table, and it was reported that he potentially had other visits lined up had he managed to leave Carolina without having signed a contract. But it is noteworthy that he signed just a one-year contract, obviously feeling that he can net a higher sum of money playing in a new environment with a greater opportunity to contribute defensively.