Earlier this week, the New York Jets released veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie. He, like his former teammate and Aliquippa native Darrelle Revis, made a return to the Jets for the 2015 season, which ended with the Jets losing to the Buffalo Bills and a missing playoff spot.
Cromartie had signed a four-year deal worth $32 million dollars, but counted $8 million dollars against the cap with no dead money. Since he was released outright, the Jets will not receive a compensatory pick for Cromartie in the 2017 NFL Draft.
However, this is a Pittsburgh Steelers article and the question is this: Should the Steelers go after Cromartie in free agency? Chances are, Cromartie won’t be coveted as heavily as say, Josh Norman of the Carolina Panthers, Sean Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs, or Prince Amukamara of the New York Giants. Heck, even Brandon Boykin at age 26 when the 2016 season begins, will likely be more coveted than Cromartie.
Cromartie will be 32 when the 2016 campaign begins and he is coming off a season where he didn't record an interception for the first time since his rookie season in 2006. But as most of us know, the cornerback position is one the Steelers need to address this offseason and while rookies like Kendall Fuller, Eli Apple, or Mackensie Alexander all sound appealing, chances are none of them will be better than Cromartie in 2016.
It is more than likely that Cortez Allen, and his $24.6 million dollar contract, will be out before training camp (given his salary cap hit), mostly likely by a post-June 1 cut. Currently, the only cornerbacks on the roster are a capable backup (Ross Cockrell), an unproven rookie (Senquez Golson), and a guy who might get more looks at safety than cornerback (Doran Grant). Sure, William Gay at age 31 as a free agent should be well within the Steelers’ price range, and if he comes back only as a backup and special teamer, Antwon Blake will be worth a short-term deal as well. But what about having a cornerback who can start now? Cromartie could be a solid short-term bridge for the Steelers in 2016. Not only that, but picking up Cromartie would lessen the pressure on the Steelers to reach for a cornerback in the early rounds, which is the biggest fear that all of Steelers Nation should have.
The Steelers were a Fitzgerald Toussaint fumble away from playing in the AFC championship game. The offense with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger was flat out awesome and the defensive line and inside linebacker play under defensive coordinator Keith Butler provided more than mere glimpses into what the Steelers can accomplish in the near future. However, the secondary play during 2015 was inconsistent at best and downright awful at worst.
The Steelers go into the 2016 season as one of the biggest favorites to get to the Super Bowl. While a rookie cornerback like Fuller, Apple, or Alexander would eventually develop into a good player, the Steelers should consider betting on a short-term deal for Cromartie to give themselves an even better opportunity to get to the Super Bowl in Houston. Perhaps a one or two-year deal with a lot of incentives laden would entice Cromartie to the Steel City, not to mention a chance to play for a winner. At the very least, the Steelers should give a call to Cromartie’s agent before the week is out.