Steelers News

Cameron Sutton Ranked 3rd Among Free Agent CBs, 22nd Overall By ESPN

The Pittsburgh Steelers added about half a dozen starters via free agency last year. Now they have to worry about retaining about as many starters of their own before they hit free agency. The top prize of the lot figures to be cornerback Cameron Sutton, who has been with the team since he was drafted in the third round in 2017.

Sutton has steadily improved his game over the past few seasons, in line with increased opportunities for playing time and particularly for seeing snaps on the outside. He is coming off the best season of his career and figures to see a substantial boost in pay in a short amount of time.

In fact Matt Bowen of ESPN (in an Insider article) argues that he is the 22nd-best player due to hit free agency later this month, and third among cornerbacks. The only players at his position ranked higher are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jamel Dean at four and the Philadelphia Eagles’ James Bradberry at seven.

“He’s a scheme-versatile corner who can find the ball in zone coverage or stick to wide receivers in man, with the transition speed to close on throws”, Bowen wrote. “Opponents completed 13.2% fewer passes when throwing his direction last season, per NFL Next Gen Stats. That was the best rate among cornerbacks with 300-plus coverage snaps”.

Sutton logged 931 defensive snaps last season, missing one game. He recorded 43 tackles, including one for loss, with career highs of three interceptions and 15 passes defensed. One gets the sense that he can convert a couple more of those deflections into turnovers, especially as he continues to settle into a full-time outside position.

“Defensive backs with this type of ball production don’t stay on the market for long”, Bowen concluded, and indeed that is what we should anticipate. We have increasingly been given reason to believe that he should command a contract of at least eight figures per season.

Last week, Jonathan Heitritter had the chance to speak to contract expert Joel Corry about Sutton’s free agency prospects and anticipated that he would likely command north of $10 million, noting that his position flexibility to be able to play both outside and inside (as well as at safety in a pinch) will only increase his value.

The question the Steelers have to ask themselves is if he is worth $10 million-plus per season to them and their particular situation, including their salary cap demands. I don’t think it’s a matter of debating whether or not his performance merits it but simply if it is a fit for them right now.

Yet the cornerback room looks pretty suspect without him. It currently consists of Levi Wallace, Ahkello Witherspoon, William Jackson III, and Arthur Maulet primarily, with James Pierre likely to be retained as a restricted free agent. Jackson is expected to be cut, and it’s possible Witherspoon may be as well, though the odds of that decrease the thinner the room gets.

To Top