Most of the chatter this off season has been about LaMarr Woodley's contract and the moronic 30 percent rule under the current CBA. It has led some of us to push other expiring contracts to the backs of our minds. While most people are fretting about Woodley, they have forgotten about another important player, Ike Taylor, whose contract also expires at the end of this season. Ike has not been a big fan favorite because of his inability to use basic motor skills and catch a football, grabbing only 9 interceptions in 76 starts (109 games). However, most people can appreciate that he has been a shutdown corner that manned one side of the field for several great defenses and two Super Bowl teams. I actually believe that his stone hands have kept him from being a Pro Bowler and out of the conversation of the top CBs in the league.
Like Woodley's contract, Taylor's will expire at the end of the 2010 season. It is likely that Ike Taylor will be looking for a considerable raise over his $3.75 million 2010 salary. His current contract was signed in 2006 and was worth $22.5 million for 5 years. That included a $6.4 million signing bonus with a few performance and roster bonuses that he met. At the time, that contract made Taylor the highest paid defensive back in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This year will be one of the most important seasons in Ike's career. He will have to decide if he wants to remain a Pittsburgh Steeler or be bought in free agency for more money. Personally, I believe that he will not return to the black and gold. He will be looking for big money, and with a big contract like Woodley's on the horizon, there is likely not enough room for both. Additionally, there are rumors that Keenan Lewis is a rising talent in camp. Couple that with Bryant McFadden returning to the Black and Gold, and it looks like the Steelers might let Taylor shop around.
Now the question is, if he leaves, how much will it hurt the Pittsburgh Steelers defense? I am split on my opinion of Ike Taylor. On one foot (he has no hands), he is a great cover corner. Corners like Ike, who can shut out a receiver for most of the game, are few and far between. He is still blazing fast, as can be seen in this Woodley TD video. On the other foot, he could not catch a cold if an infected individual sneezed in his mouth. Tab Douglas did an interview with Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weekly on ESPN 1250: Stillers 365 and their first topic of discussion was Ike Taylor. Edholm elaborated on Ike being out there at camp running extra drills with quarterbacks and receivers to practice his catching. Personally, I do not believe anything will drastically improve. However, this is a contract year for Ike and there is not a more important time for him to figure it out. Creating turnovers are just as essential as shutting out a player as demonstrated by the strong correlation of the turnover ratio to wins.
What do you think Steelers fans? What will the Pittsburgh Steelers do with Ike Taylor at the end of this year?