Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers have signed free agent cornerback William Gay to a three-year, $4.5 million contract, many feel that unrestricted free agent cornerback Keenan Lewis will for sure now be lost via free agency. This fear, however, would exist regardless if Gay was or wasn\’t signed.
The money given to Gay, when looked at from a salary cap perspective, is nominal. Should the estimated contract numbers that I posted earlier hold true, then Gay only raised the 2013 salary cap Rule of 51 number by $511,666.66 after displacement. It\’s not like they gave Lewis\’ money to Gay.
I am hearing people complain in the comments and on Twitter that the Steelers need to “step up to the plate” and get Lewis re-signed. For starters, what most fail to remember is that it takes two sides to get a deal done.
Like or not, the Steelers are not going to overpay a cornerback, just like they won\’t overpay for a wide receiver. Keep in mind that with Lewis you are talking about a player that has essentially one solid year under is belt as a full-time starter. Yes, he was adequate in 2011 when he came in on nickel packages, but he still had warts, especially against the run. His game tightened up considerably in 2012, but his lack of interceptions still hurt.
Regardless of what the Steelers may or may not be offering Lewis right now, he would be foolish to not look at what the free agent market will bear. The NFL is a business and this could be the only cash grab that Lewis ever gets to attempt. Does he want to remain in Pittsburgh? He has admitted to that, but he is not going to take considerably less to do so.
The signing of Gay, as I have pointed out before, was two fold. It provides cheap, experienced insurance should Lewis go elsewhere and it provides even better depth to the cornerback position should Lewis ultimately be re-signed.
Unfortunately we live in a Madden-type world right now, and in addition to that, the average fan still doesn\’t understand how the salary cap works. You don\’t overpay a player just to prevent him from leaving as the ramifications could wind up crippling a franchise for several years. You especially don\’t need to overpay a player when you have a player that can step in for said player and still help you win. Such is the case with Lewis as behind him sits Cortez Allen.
As far as Lewis goes, General Manager Kevin Colbert said back in January that the Steelers were going to let free agency dictate what the market value for the unrestricted free agents that they wish to re-sign.
“We won\’t know what an individual player will cost until he gets out there,” Colbert said back in January. He also added, “We\’re not married to anybody.”
The Steelers will most likely know in the first 96 hours of free agency what the market value for Lewis is. The good cornerbacks, much like the wide receivers, usually get attention right off the bat.
Yes, there is a chance that Lewis ends up elsewhere in 2013, but there is also a chance that he stays in Pittsburgh. This hasn\’t changed since the end of the season. It takes two sides to get a deal done and it only takes one of those sides being another team willing to overpay Lewis for him to end up in another uniform next season.
One thing is certain, the Steelers will not be a side that overpays. They never have and they never will.