Where does Steelers Cameron Sutton rank among top 2023 free agents?

Cameron Sutton #20 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images)
Cameron Sutton #20 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images) /

Cameron Sutton was ranked on Pro Football Focus’ Top 100 fee agent list. Here’s what it means for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2023. 

In his sixth NFL season in 2022, Cameron Sutton was a menace on Pittsburgh’s defense. The savvy veteran earned a career-high in interceptions (3) and passes defensed (15) as he was the lone bright spot among Steelers cornerbacks this past season. Since becoming a full-time starter for Pittsburgh in 2021, Sutton has been one of the more consistent cornerbacks in the NFL. Unfortunately, his strong performance doesn’t come without a price.

Recently, Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus offered a detailed breakdown of his top 100 free agents of the 2023 offseason — including a description of each player and contract projection. Sutton ranked 22nd on the list. Here’s what he had to say:

"22. CB CAMERON SUTTON, PITTSBURGH STEELERSContract Projection: Three years, $25.5 million (8.5M per year); $15.5 million total guaranteedSutton quietly continued to excel in a Pittsburgh coverage unit that was otherwise very exploitable this season, with 2022 being just his second season as a full-time starter on the outside. Sutton signed a two-year, $9 million deal in 2021 that he outplayed in 2022, earning a 71.0 coverage grade and allowing just 411 receiving yards — the ninth fewest among cornerbacks with at least 400 coverage snaps on the season.Sutton’s versatility as a defensive back who can still line up in the slot when called upon provides added value for interested teams, as well."

Spielberger is pretty accurate when it comes to contract projections, so this could be a very similar number the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking at when it comes to a potential contract extension with their top cornerback.

What makes this so tricky is that just two other cornerbacks — Jamel Dean (5th on the list) and James Bradberry (14th) — might be more sought after than Sutton in free agency.

Can Steelers afford to keep Cameron Sutton?

In today’s passing league, every team needs 3-4 quality cornerbacks. We saw the difference a player like Mike Hilton has been able to make for the Bengals over the past few seasons, and Sutton is going to draw some buzz in free agency.

Entering his seventh NFL season and turning 28 years old, Sutton is still among the youngest of the respectable corners on the market this year, and his versatility to play both outside and in the slot will be converted during the 2023 free agency period.

This begs the question of whether or not the Steelers will be able to afford him. While salary cap space is very limited at the moment, the answer should be a resounding ‘yes.’

With a few easy cuts, Pittsburgh can clear up more than enough space to make this move happen and Sutton should be one of their top priorities. Though he’s not considered an elite NFL cornerback, he’s clearly the best CB on the Steelers and one of the most consistent players on the team from game to game.

Not only will the Steelers make their best effort to keep their top cornerback, but they may also look to select a CB early in the 2023 NFL Draft. This is a completely underwhelming group outside of Sutton, and the front office knows that.

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Losing Cameron Sutton would be detrimental to a defense that already struggles against good quarterbacks and strong passing offenses. He needs to be part of the future plan of this team, and my guess is that Sutton isn’t going anywhere. The Steelers will fork up to keep one of their top players in 2023.