Day One of the legal tampering for NFL free agency was one of up-and-down emotions for Pittsburgh Steelers fans. Early in the day the team lost cornerback Cameron Sutton to the Detroit Lions, but later Pittsburgh filled the massive hole at cornerback by agreeing to a two-year deal with Patrick Peterson.
Not only did the Steelers get a veteran player who knows his way around the NFL, they got him for cheaper than what they would have paid for Sutton. The contract that Peterson agreed to is for two years, $14 million while Sutton received a three-year, $33-million contract.
Peterson’s cost-effective deal, despite still playing at a relatively high level, is a big reason why CBS Sports’s Cody Benjamin listed it as the fifth-best value deal of free agency so far.
“Retaining the physical Cameron Sutton would’ve been nice but adding Peterson after somewhat of an age-32 renaissance is a great consolation prize for Pittsburgh,” wrote Benjamin. “By himself, he’s not necessarily the do-it-all playmaker from his Cardinals prime, but Peterson repeatedly kept an otherwise porous Vikings defense alive in key moments during his 2022 campaign.”
Peterson will not be able to shift inside to the slot like Sutton was able to and is starting to lose a step. As of right now Sutton is the better player. However, it seems like Pittsburgh is planning on drafting a cornerback early in the NFL Draft. The idea of paying a lot of money to Sutton, who would likely move inside once the rookie gets adjusted to the outside may not justify a big contract. Instead, a cheaper deal for Peterson to bridge until the rookie is truly ready to take off makes more sense.
Peterson intercepted five passes, broke up 15 (the second-highest number of his career), and allowed a passer rating of 79.6 when targeted last season. Still a good player, he is a cheaper option who can perform well for at least one more season.
Benjamin also believes playing with an elite safety like Minkah Fitzpatrick him will help Peterson as he continues to age.
“The Steelers are only committing top-30 money (2 years, $14M) for a plug-and-play outside starter, and Peterson should thrive by leaning on the range of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick as part of Mike Tomlin’s squad,” Benjamin wrote.
Pittsburgh’s cornerback room still isn’t very pretty. But bringing in a player the caliber of the experienced Peterson after losing Sutton is huge. Not only will he be able to mentor a young cornerback, he will also give quality play to a unit that sorely needs it.