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Steelers 2021 Free Agent Market Watch: Cornerbacks that the Steelers maybe can’t afford

BTSC takes a look at the top free agents at each position, whether or not they are in the Steelers price range. Here are the Cornerbacks.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Disclaimer: The author realizes that the 2021 Steelers are probably going to be burning in Salary Cap Hell and can’t pony up much money for free agents. However, you never know what they have planned and it’s the author’s responsibility to highlight the free agent options.

The Steelers have very good, but high-priced talent, at the cornerback position in Joe Haden and Steven Nelson. Both will be free agents in 2022. As for 2021, they have Cam Sutton and Mike Hilton with expired deals right now, Should the Steelers decide that they need to address the position in free agency, this is who is looking for a deal at the position.


Most Notable Free Agent Cornerbacks

William Jackson III - Cincinnati Bengals

Age 28, 6’0”/196 lbs.

Stats: Games Played - 14, Speed - 4.37

No. 20 PFF Position Ranking

Interceptions: 1, Pass Defenses: 11, Times Targeted: 74, Completions Against: 38, Completion %: 54.2%, Touchdown: 0, Sacks: 0.0, Combined Tackles: 45, Solo Tackles: 38, Tackles For Loss: 1, Quarterback Hits: 0

Overall Grade 71.4 (Above Average), Pass Rush 64.7 (Average), Run Defense 52.7 (Below Average), Coverage 72.4 (Above Average)

William Jackson was the guy that they wanted in 2016 instead of Artie Burns. They missed out by one pick. Jackson has started 48 games in his career and has had solid seasons for struggling Bengals teams, but never has played a full season. Not quite a shutdown corner, but Jackson comes close. The Steelers might not have the 13.3 million that PFF projects it would take to get the player they coveted 5 years ago, but if they make a move on one of their other is possible.

Darious Williams (RFA) - Los Angeles Rams

Age 28, 5’9”/187 lbs.

Stats: Games Played - 16, Speed - 4.44

No. 4 PFF Position Ranking

Interceptions: 4, Pass Defenses: 14, Times Targeted: 72, Completions Against: 39, Completion %: 54.2%, Touchdowns: 0, Sacks: 0.0, Combined Tackles: 44, Solo Tackles: 37, Tackles For Loss: 1, Quarterback Hits: 0

Overall Grade 80.0 (High Quality), Pass Rush 72.0 (Above Average), Run Defense 56.3 (Average), Coverage 79.6 (High Quality)

Williams is a true rags-to-riches story in the NFL. A walk-on at UAB, the corner was an undrafted free agent signing for the Ravens. But Baltimore didn’t see the long-term potential and let him fly away. The Rams picked him up and he developed over time into a high quality defensive back. As a restricted free agent with a probable high price tag, Williams may not be in everybody’s cart, but he may be worth the compensation.

Xavier Rhodes - Indianapolis Colts

Age 31, 6’1”/218 lbs.

Stats: Games Played - 16, Speed - 4.43

No. 9 PFF Position Ranking

Interceptions: 2, Pass Defenses: 12, Times Targeted: 81, Completions Against: 42, Completion %: 51.9%, Touchdowns: 0, Sacks: 0.0, Combined Tackles: 42, Solo Tackles: 35, Tackles For Loss: 0, Quarterback Hits: 0

Overall Grade 76.3 (High Quality), Pass Rush 66.4 (Above Average), Run Defense 58.0 (Average), Coverage 77.5 (High Quality)

Xavier Rhodes looked like he was through by the end of his tenure in Minnesota, but he returned to a high level of play in a healthy, first season in Indianapolis. Opposing quarterbacks and receivers didn’t find success in front of Rhodes in 2020. Now that he is a shutdown corner again, PFF projects a deal in the neighborhood of $8 million per year.

Brian Poole - New York Jets

Age 28, 5’10”/213 lbs.

Stats: Games Played - 9, Speed - 4.6

No. 11 PFF Position Ranking

Interceptions: 2, Pass Defenses: 7, Times Targeted: 39, Completions Against: 25, Completion 64.1%: , Touchdowns: 0, Sacks: 1.0, Combined Tackles: 44, Solo Tackles: 34, Tackles For Loss: 2, Quarterback Hits: 2

Overall Grade 77.1 (High Quality), Pass Rush 69.8 (Above Average), Run Defense 49.7 (Below Average), Coverage 79.5 (High Quality)

Brian Poole has emerged as a high-quality slot corner in his time with the New York Jets. Poole’s coverage skills are a major staple of his success and continually plays at a consistent level. PFF projects a deal worth $6 million per year at a rapidly-evolving position of importance.

Desmond King - Tennessee Titans

Age 26, 5’10”/200 lbs.

Stats: Games Played - 15, Speed - 4.57

No. 40 PFF Position Ranking

Interceptions: 0, Pass Defenses: 0, Times Targeted: 17, Completions Against: 11, Completion %: 64.7%, Touchdowns: 0, Sacks: 0.0, Combined Tackles: 24, Solo Tackles: 19, Tackles For Loss: 0, Quarterback Hits: 1

Overall Grade 65.5 (Above Average), Pass Rush 78.4 (High Quality), Run Defense 70.6 (Above Average), Coverage 60.9 (Average)

Desmond King is very versatile and can play all over the secondary. The former Charger and Titan grades out best as a slot corner, but his first two NFL campaigns were better than his last two. Should he rebound, PFF’s projected worth of $5.83 million per year could be a bargain for a team looking for defensive backfield help and a talented return specialist.

Steelers Free Agent Cornerbacks

Mike Hilton

Age 27, 5’9”/184 lbs.

Stats: Games Played - 12, Speed - 4.55

No. 53 PFF Position Ranking

Interceptions: 3, Pass Defenses: 7, Times Targeted: 45, Completions Against: 29, Completion %: 64.4%, Touchdowns: 0, Sacks: 3.0, Combined Tackles: 51, Solo Tackles: 42, Tackles For Loss: 8, Quarterback Hits: 5, Forced Fumbles: 1, Fumble Recoveries: 2

Overall Grade 68.9 (Above Average), Pass Rush 81.5 (High Quality), Run Defense 55.9 (Average), Coverage 67.0 (Above Average)

Hilton has been such a valuable player for the Steelers, one you would think they’d want to retain. But the talented slot-man’s high level play over the past couple of seasons may have priced him out of Pittsburgh. Hilton could be a value to anybody for what PFF projects to be a bargain price of $4 million per year for a player of Hilton’s caliber.

Cameron Sutton

Age 26, 5’11”/188 lbs.

Stats: Games Played - 16, Speed - 4.5

No. 30 PFF Position Ranking

Interceptions: , Pass Defenses: , Times Targeted: , Completions Against: , Completion %: , Touchdowns: 0, Sacks: , Combined Tackles: , Solo Tackles: , Tackles For Loss: , Quarterback Hits: Forced Fumbles: 3, Fumble Recoveries: 1

Overall Grade 68.6 (Above Average), Pass Rush 71.4 (Above Average), Run Defense 29.4 (Rookie), Coverage 73.9 (Above Average)

Cam Sutton plays at a high level whether it’s on the outside or in the slot. No. 20 has played in a crowded secondary in the Steel City, but continually turns out impressive film. At a projected $2.75 per year, the Steelers may make a play to retain Sutton’s services.

Other Free Agent Cornerbacks

Johnathan Joseph - Arizona Cardinals

Dre Kirkpatrick - Arizona Cardinals

Patrick Peterson - Arizona Cardinals

Darqueze Dennard - Atlanta Falcons

Blidi Wreh-Wilson - Atlanta Falcons

Tramon Williams - Baltimore Ravens

Josh Norman - Buffalo Bills

Levi Wallace (RFA) - Buffalo Bills

Corn Elder (RFA) - Carolina Panthers

Rasul Douglas - Carolina Panthers

Artie Burns - Chicago Bears

Sherrick McManis - Chicago Bears

Mackensie Alexander - Cincinnati Bengals

Leshaun Sims - Cincinnati Bengals

Terrance Marshall - Cleveland Browns

C.J. Goodwin - Dallas Cowboys

Chidobe Awuzie - Dallas Cowboys

Jourdan Lewis - Dallas Cowboys

A.J. Bouye - Denver Broncos

DeVante Bausby - Denver Broncos

Mike Ford (RFA) - Detroit Lions

Tony McRae - Detroit Lions

Darryl Roberts - Detroit Lions

Kevin King, CB - Green Bay Packers

Gareon Conley - Houston Texans

Vernon Hargreaves - Houston Texans

Phillip Gaines - Houston Texans

T.J. Carrie - Indianapolis Colts

Greg Mabin - Jacksonville Jaguars

D.J. Hayden - Jacksonville Jaguars

Sidney Jones - Jacksonville Jaguars

Charvarius Ward (RFA) - Kansas City Chiefs

Antonio Hamilton - Kansas City Chiefs

Baushad Breeland - Kansas City Chiefs

Daryl Worley - Las Vegas Raiders

Nevin Lawson - Las Vegas Raiders

Jaylen Watkins - Los Angeles Chargers

Michael Davis - Los Angeles Chargers

Troy Hill - Los Angeles Rams

J.C. Jackson (RFA) - New England Patriots

Jason McCourty - New England Patriots

Justin Bethel - New England Patriots

Ken Crawley - New Orleans Saints

P.J. Williams - New Orleans Saints

Justin Hardee - New Orleans Saints

Arthur Maulet - New York Jets

Cre’von LeBlanc - Philadelphia Eagles

Jason Verrett - San Francisco 49ers

Ahkello Witherspoon - San Francisco 49ers

K’Waun Williams - San Francisco 49ers

Richard Sherman - San Francisco 49ers

Jamar Taylor, CB - San Francisco 49ers

Quinton Dunbar - Seattle Seahawks

Shaq Griffin - Seattle Seahawks

Neiko Thorpe - Seattle Seahawks

Jayson Stanley - Seattle Seahawks

Jaydon Mickens - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ryan Smith - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ross Cockrell - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Breon Borders - Tennessee Titans

Tye Smith - Tennessee Titans

Chris Milton - Tennessee Titans

Ronald Darby - Washington Football Team

Fabian Moreau - Washington Football Team