Clearing salary cap space to re-sign at least some of their 21 soon to be unrestricted free agents will be a top priority for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ brass this spring. To make room for the players with expiring contracts, the team would be wise to release or restructure the current deal of an expensive veteran like cornerback Ike Taylor.
According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers would be able to clear $7 million worth of cap space if they release the soon to be 34-year-old.
Even if they choose not to release Taylor, the team should ask the cornerback to take a hefty pay cut after the way he performed last fall. Taylor played so poorly that the coaching staff did not allow him to cover opposing teams’ number one receivers towards the end of last season.
Missed tackles, missed assignments in coverage and being bested on a consistent basis on the back-end were more of the norm than usual for the veteran last fall. Plus, the fact that Taylor failed to record a single takeaway in 2013 has to weight heavily on the minds of those in the front office.
Since the veteran cornerback is set to count for $11.9 million against Pittsburgh’s salary cap this year, one has to wonder the following:
What will the franchise decide to do with Taylor this spring?
If defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was not coming back this fall, I would have no issue with the team releasing Taylor to clear cap space. Pittsburgh could draft multiple rookies, have them compete for playing time with Curtis Brown behind William Gay and Cortez Allen, and then go forward from there.
Since LeBeau is set to stick around this fall, then it is unlikely that any rookies drafted by the team will see the field at all at cornerback. Thus, keeping Taylor around, if he agrees to a pay cut, will be of the utmost importance for Pittsburgh’s defense due to the team’s lack of experienced depth at cornerback.
Make no mistake, I would love to see Brown, Isaiah Green and a rookie or two be thrown into the fire on the defensive side of the ball early and often this year. However, if history is any indication, LeBeau and his staff will do whatever is necessary to make sure his most experienced players see the field.
In addition, I would not blame the coaching staff for their desire to see the veteran cornerback stick around for the final season of his current contract. In fact, Allen and Gay are the only other cornerbacks on the roster who possess any extended professional experience. As expensive as he is to keep, I would certainly be timid about releasing a veteran like Taylor.
Although a pay cut or massive restructure would be in order, the lack of experienced depth at cornerback is still a cause for concern for the Steelers. Taylor would provide Pittsburgh with some insurance in case injuries struck at the position, and his knowledge of the defensive scheme is also an enormous plus.
In my humble opinion, Ike will likely be asked to take a hefty pay cut or have his contract restructured once again to have some of his current base salary allocated into future bonuses.
Whether or not Ike takes the pay cut is a different story altogether. What I am sure of is the fact that the market will not necessarily be booming for a soon to be 34-year-old cornerback with stone hands and declining skills if the front office elects to release Taylor.
Thus, if Ike wants to play in 2014, he will likely have to take a significant pay cut to stay in Pittsburgh or suit up for another franchise.