It Takes Two Sides in Order To Get A Deal Done With Keenan Lewis

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.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Great article. Sums up my feelings on Gay exactly. He is an insurance AND an upgrade. I do want to ask, wouldn’t they pretty much save the money that Gay cost us by cutting Justin King if they get Lewis resigned?

  • pretty much.

  • dgh57

    If Lewis wants to continue to improve as a CB he will resign with the Steelers and the man who got him where he is now in Carnel Lake! Steelers have the best shot of having Lewis on their team because of Lake.

  • TJimmy

    Based on Cortez’ play last year, I wonder if he actually has more upside due to his game-changing ability.

    Yeah, it’s nice to have a guy who can swat down balls, but even better to have one who can catch them or cause a fumble and run the other way. The lack of turnovers have certainly been a problem for the Steelers defense the last two years.

  • Chris92021

    As long as I don’t have to see Justin King, Josh Victorian, or any other bums out there, I am OK. You bring up a great point. Lewis has to want to come back too but he’s not going to take a much reduced salary to do it. Chances are this will likely be Lewis’s only chance at big money. If he gets it from elsewhere, more power to him.

  • The problem with the Average fan is that you can tell them the sky is blue and explain why and they will argue up and down that it is green…The W. Gay signing is a brilliant business decision.

  • Kysteeler

    This is what a lot of people fail to realize. The Steelers aren’t “letting him go”, they could have made a fair offer, but Lewis might be wanting to test the market.

    I’m in the minority, but I didn’t want Lewis back (for a high price), I think down the road Allen will be a far better CB. While I don’t like Gay, he is a nice safety net for not having Lewis come back.

  • mokhkw

    +1. This signing just makes too much sense. Gay is a good Nickel & Dime CB, he’s not a starter or outside CB and it’s not his fault that Arizona decided to pay him like one. If Lewis leaves, we have Ike-Cortez-Gay & Brown, if he stays, it’s Ike-Keenan-Cortez & Gay. If Ike suddenly gets old, or someone gets injured, Gay can play the slot & we’d still have 2 capable starters.

    If Lewis hopefully stays, this puts Brown on notice. I think some people view a FA or a Draft Pick as a sexier option to W.Gay, but we all know that neither has a chance of playing much in year one of LeBeau’s D. I can’t think of any other options, either in FA or the Draft, which gives us a Nickel/Dime DB who knows the system & can contribute in 2013. Maybe Curtis Brown steps up his game and overtakes Gay, if he does it’s still a win-win situation for the Steelers.

  • Jollyrob68

    I like Cortez as a future Safety, so I’d like lewis back but not at a high price.
    I just hate that our one weakness has become a strength and It’s about to fall due aging vets & not locking up our younger players.
    Say hello to Ray Horton, he’ll be a brown or follow Wallace.

  • Either way, the Steelers are fielding a championship team in 2013. #SteelerNation

  • JohnnyV1

    I remember when the Steelers gave multi-year contracts to Chad Scott & Dwayne Washington in training camp of 2001. Both around 5yr $25 million. Keenan Lewis has more promise than both. The issue is that I doubt the team will let Ike Taylor go, and they have too much tied up in Big Ben, Woodley, Harrison, Polamalu & Timmons to pay Taylor and Lewis.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    I guess I’m of the opposite point of view. I would rather pay for two “legit” CBs (Taylor, Lewis) and fill in the other 3 spots with young cheap upside type players (Allen, Brown, Van Dyke), than resign a below average insurance policy for 4.5 mil.

    If Lewis walks we need to draft yet another early round CB to take over once Ike leaves. A draft pick that could’ve been used on a WR to take over for our other young star that got away.

    I guess I’m just frustrated that we always seem to find the money to bring back Hampton and Foote and McFadden and Gay but then we don’t have enough to bring back Wallace or Lewis. What the hell? Everyone’s worried about “overpaying” Lewis, what about the money we’re burning on old veterans who are always hurt. At least Wallace and Lewis are actually on the field every game.

    Cut Harrison, Hampton, Colon, Foote, Mundy, W. Allen, Leftwich, C. Batch, and there’s your money to pay for our young stars. What’s the worst that can happen? We go 8-8 one year while we find out if our young prospects can play? Oh wait, we just did that…

  • mghjr88

    I highly doubt that Wallace’s destination holds much significance with where Lewis signs

  • zyzak

    What about poor Josh Victorian? Lewis is not a star, he covers OK but they need playmakers that take the ball away. He doesn’t do that. I think he will sign with SF Cleveland or Pgh

  • Mr irrelevant.

    They overpaid for colon and overpaid for Harrison. And now that’s biting us in the *$$

  • charles

    Wow!! These comments are really great! One thing that might add to the discussion: Is there any chance that LeBeau will simplify the D so that rookies can play? We had Lewis for 3 years and only used him one year. Would that explain the old in our defense? Further, Carnell Lake is the reason that our defense is ranked number 1 and not 8-8. He is a Pro Bowl coach. He is our 12th man and we are only using him on third down!

  • charles

    Brilliant business decisions belong to the Pirates.

  • steeltown

    You are forgetting that Gays cap hit is low, he’s cheaper annually than a restricted tender contract.. and he can be released after this season with minimal dead money damage. It’s a cheap insurance policy (with starting experience) in case Lewis gets offered an astronomical amount elsewhere and walks

    Harrison and Colon are the only ones you mentioned that can be cut, all others are FA… but I agree, neither of them are part of the future, cut them both

  • steeltown


  • steeltown

    Lewis posted on twitter back in January (after that misquote from Alan Robinson)

    Lewis: “I had my exit meeting today and it went great. I know we in the right direction as far as a contract. I believe strongly I will be a part of Steeler Nation next season. To do a three peat as the number one pass defense period. Here we go”

    Now I know talk is cheap and twitter is even cheaper, but damn that sounds positive to me… guess we’ll see

  • Where was all that “game changing ability” all year long, why did he only start making plays during garbage time, in games that were meaningless. Allen is good in the slot, but barely average on the outside, lets not get it twisted.

  • Thomas Rancy

    That depth won’t be looking good at all if either Ike or Cortez get hurt and we have Gay and either Brown or Van Dyke Starting 1 v 1 against the Boldins, Welkers and Percy Harvins of the league.

  • You think Allen will be a far better CB based on what? I keep hearing people say how great the guy is, but I’ve watched every snap he’s played and he’s good in the slot, but average at best on the outside. Actually Josh Victorian played better on the outside in his few snaps. I’m not getting it.

  • I understand budget considerations, but fair market value is fair market value. You have to pay to play. Forget the stats, Any team that has lined up against him or watched his film knows Lewis is a high quality CB that hasn’t yet (but soon will) gain the name recognition. As for the “system corner” crap, remember the guy never played zone until he got to Pittsburgh. He started 48 games and excelled in the pac 10 on a team well known for leaving their corners on a island. The Steelers do press sometimes and he hasn’t been beaten yet. He will get lots of attention, mostly because without the name recognition they look at him as a bargain. A chance to get a pro bowl caliber CB cheap. If the Steelers be fair with him he’ll stay. But they need to be fair.

  • TJimmy

    CB’s take time to develop. Time will tell

  • I hate to be the bearer of bad news but its starting to seem very unlikely that we resign keenan lewis.

  • Wallaces destination holds more significance than you would think…. remember they were child hood best friends.. and keenan lewis was basing his college ball on where mike wallace was playing

  • No, not really…but that is for a different forum/blog site.

  • Garrett Hunt

    Based on what? Nothing has changed in this regard since the end of the season.

  • mghjr88

    Yeah. And then Wallace decided to follow his high school coach to Ole Miss. leaving Lewis across the country by himself.

    I understand the history they have, but to believe that either of them won’t land where the most money is offered is naive at best.

  • Garrett Hunt

    Timmons salary is more than manageable for his production, but I agree with Woodley, Harrison, and Polamalu (only b/c he can’t stay healthy).

  • Garrett Hunt

    I would say he covers better than OK, why else would he be so sought out?

  • LucasY59

    I’m curious with all of the “not able to afford” talk or “other teams will pay more” what are the per year contract amounts that Lewis is worth? or what will other teams offer? from what I’ve seen Lewis is in the 4 mil/yr range with 5 being the max. especially since he has 0 interceptions, has not been to a probowl, and last season was the first he started the whole season. that doesn’t sound like a contract that will break the bank especially since most of the 1st years $ will be in signing bonus and will be spread out over the rest of the years of the contract. Lewis could be worth more than that after another year or two of equal or improved play from this year and could/should ask for a restructure/increase/extension if his play warrants it.

  • Nolrog

    Typically there’s not a lot of cap savings by “cutting” free agents.

  • James Doogin

    What a lot of people forget is that Lewis had the chance to start in year 2 when BMac got hurt. I hear people say ‘he couldn’t beat out William Gay’ but he actually leapfrogged Gay as the next up behind BMac. If not for showing immaturity after the Denver game, he probably would have been the starter on opening day.

    Another thing is that I hear people talk about Allen having more upside and him being further than Keenan, but that’s also not so true. Like I said above, Lewis could have been starting in year 2 so they both exactly in the same spot in terms of progression and development. The same conversations you heard about Allen coming out of camp in year 2, is the same news you heard about Lewis coming out of camp his second year. The only mistake he made was breaking the glass in Denver, which put him behind Gay and Madison on the depth chart.

    Overall, I think out of the 2 that Lewis is the more complete corner. While they both have great coverage skills, the separation is against the run and tacking. I think that along with experience is what gives Lewis the edge. They need to sign the man, point blank.