With the start of the legal tampering period for NFL free agency beginning tomorrow, the NFL offseason will officially be in full swing. NFL insiders Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler put out an article on ESPN today with the latest buzz the two are hearing when it comes to free agency, and one name the two threw out as a sleeper is Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton.
Fowler, pointing to a lack of depth at cornerback in free agency and in the draft, says that top of the market cornerbacks like Jamel Dean, James Bradberry and Byron Murphy Jr. are “well-positioned.” He adds that Sutton is a name to keep an eye on, and said he expects NFC North teams to be involved with Pittsburgh’s No. 1 corner in 2022.
“The Pittsburgh corner just finished a two-year, $9 million deal but will be in a much higher tier this time. His name is circulating right now at the cornerback spot. Could see some NFC North action here — the Vikings or Lions make sense. Raiders, too.”
Sutton’s certainly going to get an increase from his last contract, as he showed ability to play in the slot or outside. At the NFL Combine, former sports agent Joel Corry said the floor that Sutton is looking at is around $10 million in average annual value. Last month, Dave Bryan put out three separate potential contracts for Sutton depending on what his market value may be. Given the latest buzz of potential outside interest from at least three teams, Sutton’s value is probably right around that $13 million mark that the first contract proposal in that article has him at.
At this point though, I would be surprised if Sutton wasn’t donning the black and gold next season. The Steelers have a hole at corner with Sutton and without Sutton, and if he walks in free agency that hole just becomes a heck of a lot bigger. Given his production last season where he had stretches where he played like one of the better cornerbacks in football, $13 million in average annual value is a fair price to pay.
If they do commit that money to Sutton though, expect him to remain on the outside. While he has the versatility and can move around and also play in the slot, if the Steelers are committing that sort of money it would tell me that they see Sutton as someone capable of playing outside full-time.
Re-signing Sutton also doesn’t preclude the team from adding a cornerback in the draft, although it would probably reduce the possibility of taking one in the first (unless Joey Porter Jr. or another top corner remained on the board). But it would keep their top cornerback in Pittsburgh while making corner less of a pressing need all while not really breaking the bank. In fact, if Sutton continues playing at his 2022 level, $13 million a season would end up being a bit of a bargain.
In the end, I expect Sutton to end up in Pittsburgh, but the outside interest is going to drive his market up to around $13-14 million per season. With the legal tampering period kicking off tomorrow, we’ll obviously know a lot more, but things are about to get interesting this off-season.