Six-year veteran cornerback Cameron Sutton is by far the Pittsburgh Steelers’ most notable free agent this offseason. That might not rock the boat for most teams, but it’s a pretty big deal for them considering the alternative options currently available to them.
A third-round pick out of Tennessee in 2017, Sutton worked his way up the ladder before finally cementing himself as a quality full-time starter on the outside over the past two seasons, particularly last year. Contract estimates have been favorable, putting his value in the low eight figures per season.
Steelers beat writer Gerry Dulac, however, doesn’t think Sutton merits that. He said as much in response to a question asking him if Sutton was worth $10 million per season. “No he isn’t”, he responded, but he did refute the notion that he was a slot cornerback playing out of position.
“I like Cam Sutton as player because of all the different roles he can play”, he added to the end of his answer in which he contradicted the prevailing view of his market. “But good luck if he thinks he will find that amount somewhere in free agency”.
Note that he didn’t simply say that he doesn’t think the Steelers would be willing to reach eight figures for Sutton. He implied that he doesn’t expect the cornerback to find that anywhere out on the market for him.
Of course time will prove who is right and who is wrong. His opinion does contradict his own Pittsburgh Post-Gazette colleague, Ray Fittipaldo, who agreed that Sutton is likely worth $10-12 million per season. That is also roughly where contract expert Joel Corry placed his value.
It would be great for the Steelers if they could not only re-sign him but do so at a figure in the seven digits rather than eight. We won’t know how realistic that is, however, until he hits the market, unless Pittsburgh manages to get him to accept an offer beforehand.
As most players do, Sutton has expressed a desire to remain with the team that drafted him, but money talks in these situations. I’m sure Mike Hilton in 2021 felt he would have preferred staying in Pittsburgh, all things being equal, though he may feel differently two years on. (And yes I know the Steelers didn’t draft Hilton, that was a separate point.)
Absent his services, Pittsburgh’s starting cornerbacks would feature Levi Wallace with Arthur Maulet in the slot, and either Ahkello Witherspoon or James Pierre. Witherspoon is at risk of release with his $4 million base salary, while Pierre is a restricted free agent.
Some feel, however, that if the Steelers re-sign Sutton, it would be a step backwards for the secondary because it would dissuade them from going after a potential shutdown cornerback in the draft, a piece that has been missing for some years. I’m not sure it’s as simple as that. But the market may make the decisions here for everybody.