Throughout the next few weeks, BTSC will be breaking down the 2016 free agents on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster by position. We will look at every position and the players who could be looking for new scenery next season, and what better place to start than the highly debated cornerback position.
Steelers Cornerback Free Agents:
Antwon Blake - UFA - $1,542,000 (Current Salary)
William Gay - UFA - $1,500,000
Brandon Boykin - UFA - $626,367
Ross Cockrell - ERFA - Signed a one-year deal with the Steelers
The Steelers might see the biggest turnover next season in their secondary, and a large part of that is the fact 3/4 of their starting cornerbacks could be leaving via free agency. If Blake, Gay and Boykin would all leave before 2016, it would leave Ross Cockrell and Doran Grant as the only cornerbacks on the roster with game experience within the Steelers' system.
Senquez Golson, the team's 2nd round draft pick in 2015, will be in the lineup next season, but to think the Steelers will let all three of these defensive backs jettison for greener pastures is difficult to fathom. So, I think everyone reading this can agree not all three defensive backs will return, but which ones will stay and go?
The Steelers would be foolish to let William Gay even entertain the thought of leaving. Not only has he left before only to return to the team who drafted him, but he has found a home within the Steelers' defensive system. Gay was more than just the best cornerback on the team this past season, he was a defensive leader. Gay played in 16 games this year, had two interceptions, with one returned for a touchdown, and was a part of 46 tackles.
If Gay is priority No. 1, then who else stays and goes?
Unfortunately, the way the Steelers handled Brandon Boykin in 2015 likely means he has already left town with no thought of even returning. The Steelers would have to shell out a lot of money to bring Boykin back, and his play down the stretch could have put his price tag out of the Steelers' prince range.
What about Antwon Blake? Blake was about as bad, and inconsistent, as any cornerback in the NFL. He was repeatedly targeted by opposing quarterbacks and abused regularly. In fact, Pro Football Focus had him ranked as the second worst CB in the NFL. All of this will make him a very unappealing option for teams looking to upgrade at the cornerback position. Mike Tomlin like Blake and his style of play, and Blake has proven to be a valuable asset on special teams. Don't be shocked if Blake is back in black and gold next season.
Prediction: If I were to predict who would stay and leave from this group, I would say Gay re-signs with the team, Boykin leaves in free agency and Blake is brought back as experienced depth and special teams. It won't be popular, but it could be effective if Blake isn't relied upon as an every day starter. The team will still have to address this position either in free agency or the draft.