My knee-jerk reaction to the deal given to Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen is optimistic overall. How can it not be? Oh, because fans hate Allen for some reason.
To throw more gasoline on the fire, it's very similar to the deal given to center Maurkice Pouncey (I haven't had a chance to dig into the details yet). He's being paid more for where he's going as a player than where he is now.
I've said this since 2012, he has awesome potential and just an excellent make-up for the position in this defense. I said he'd get an extension, he was the Jersey Rules champion for two consecutive years for cripes sake. This is going to be a breakout year for him - yes, I said that last year. He's still a very young player who barely had any experience when he came here. ONE YEAR of high school football (and was a big-school All State in Florida) (FLORIDA!), then four years at a small college before coming to Pittsburgh. He forced more turnovers in five quarters of play in 2012 than Keenan Lewis had during his entire Steelers career.
The kid can flat-out play, and they signed him for cheap in comparison to most veteran corners in the league. Or at least he's around the average level, so I really can't see any reason to complain about the contract. The team has the space, what they don't have are players signed beyond 2015. They're rebuilding their core group of players in what will be the end of the Roethlisberger Era in Pittsburgh. He'll get his deal this offseason and they're working in the pieces that will fit with him over the last few years of his career.
Allen is a quality component of this coming era. Contracts in this league have to be at least somewhat based in potential. Our perspective is skewed a bit because of the monster Year 4 Keenan Lewis had, but No. 1: Allen got the starting job in Year 3, this is his fourth season; and No. 2: Keenan Lewis is a good cornerback but I didn't see him doing anything much differently than what Allen did last year. If we're going to compare them in every way possible, why are we ignoring the obvious and significant experience advantage that Lewis had? It's red apples to green apples.
You've seen him get beat a few times? Ok. How many cornerbacks are getting beat consistently in Goodell's Offensive NFL? He's not Darrelle Revis or Richard Sherman, but guess what? He's not being paid like Darrelle Revis or Richard Sherman.
Let's accept just these facts: Cortez Allen is a physically gifted athlete who started most of last season a bit under-experienced, comparatively speaking. Lewis had far more developmental experience, not to mention an entire year in the NFL more than Allen did when he started. The Steelers had far more cap space when Allen signed his deal than when Lewis hit free agency.
Besides, if people are still upset over how the Lewis situation was handled, just look at the fact they paid Allen a little less in 2014 dollars (when they had more of them) than Lewis got on the open market. We can gnash our teeth all we want, but if William Gay plays at a similar level now and next year as he did last year, you're looking at a pair of solid cornerbacks in 2015 who are counting something like $6 million against the cap. That's dirt cheap, and it's the lowest it has been in Pittsburgh probably since 2008.