In perhaps the biggest NFL news of the day, B/R has now learned that Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor will become an unrestricted free agent.
With potential suitors already flooding the market, there is absolutely no reason a deal can’t get done as early as…oh, wait.
Is it Thursday yet?
Well okay, darn.
Hypothetically, if your team were able to do so, would you encourage them to sign Ike Taylor? Or, as Pittsburgh Post-Gazette scribe Ed Bouchette so eloquently states it:
“What would you pay for a 30-year-old who has been the best starting cornerback for one of the best defenses in the NFL for the past six seasons?”
Good question, and I’m not sure what I'd pay.
However, the following are ten teams who might be.
Honorable mention: The Nnamdi-less Oakland Raiders.
There are only two sensible reasons you’d be looking for Ike Taylor at this point in his career. You’re either on the verge of competing, or you’re looking for a culture infusion.
The Jaguars are the only team on this list I regard as neither.
Jacksonville’s defensive backfield is hurting in the worst way. Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox have been solid at corner, but they last year started 2009 draft picks Don Carey and Courtney Greene at safety (first and second year NFL players, respectively) and neither of one was drafted higher than the sixth round. The Jaguars drafted S Reggie Nelson in 2007, but traded him to Cincinnati last year after he’d begun to regress.
Jacksonville’s pass defense was fift- worst in the league last year and at 6-2, 195, Taylor has—at worst—the frame of a solid safety. As recently as two years ago, he was still regarded as blazingly fast and could potentially patch a giant hole on the Jaguar defense.
The Lions have a number of young corners on the roster (Alphonso Smith, Aaron Berry, Brandon McDonald, Tye Hill, Prince Miller), but, as GM Martin Mayhew said (via CBSsports’ Jeff Reynolds): “All those guys have talent, all have upside and potential, but not many have performed at a high level in games.”
Under this scenario Taylor would be brought in to mentor the young guns, while bolstering the Lions 16th-ranked pass defense.
The Eagles too are in desperate need of a corner and unlike Detroit, they are ready to compete.
Asante Samuel continues to play at a high level, but Ellis Hobbs looks likely to retire after sustaining his second serious neck injury in the last two years.
No one else on the roster is ready to assume a starting role and the Eagles will not be anxious to alter their aggressive schemes in order to protect what would become an obvious weak link.
The Cowboys will be looking to add a corner with the ninth pick in the draft, but I don’t think the draft will fall as they’d hope it to in that regard.
It’s unlikely Prince Amukamara will be there, it’s impossible Patrick Peterson will be there and it’s just a little too high to think about Jimmy Smith.
Terrence Newman is 32 and, on account of his salary, no sure bet to make the team.
Jerry Jones will be looking for his team to rebound next year and I doubt he leaves the secondary in shambles.
The Seahawks had the sixth-worst pass defensive in the league last year and while some of that blame should be placed on the defensive line, more should be placed on their secondary.
While Earl Thomas looks to be a stud, Lawyer Milloy was awful last season and is a candidate to be replaced by literally anybody.
At corner, Marcus Trufant is getting older, Kelly Jennings may be leaving and neither performed at an irreplaceable level in 2010.
With the signing of Taylor the Seahawks are not only shoring up a weakness, they’re buying themselves draft picks to do…a lot. They have a lot to fix. For starters, Seattle must address their offensive line and maybe even their quarterback situation (whether or not they can retain Matt Hasselbeck is more than up in the air).
If Pete Carroll’s team has any chance of making a return trip to the playoffs, they will need to patch some holes through free agency.
New defensive coordinator Ray Horton likes to blitz and you can’t blitz sans corners.
You can’t blitz sans linebackers either, but I have a feeling that will be addressed come the fifth pick in the draft.
Arizona’s pass defense was ranked 23rd in the league last season (poor pass defense is becoming a recurring theme here) and the secondary reason for that was, well, the secondary.
They'll be aiming to patch it up.
One other interesting tidbit? Ray Horton was a corner for the Steelers, who subsequently returned to Pittsburgh as their defensive backs coach in which capacity he worked with…Ike Taylor.
Do with that nugget what you will.
The Texans spent a first-round pick last year on Kareem Jackson, who was very solid and particularly strong against the run.
The problem is he can't do it alone.
The Texans employed the league’s worst pass defense last year—they gave up an average of 267.5 yards a game through the air—and if they harbor any illusions about prolonged playoff contention, that is something that will have to be remedied.
Is this cheating?
Then it’s appropriate for Pittsburgh. (Burn! –signed Mike Holmgren)
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Steelers have had a little trouble curtailing some of the league’s premiere passers (see: Super Bowl XLV). The blueprint to beat Pittsburgh is out there, the only reason things haven’t been worse for them is that there are so few teams capable of executing it.
But high as the Steelers aspirations annually are, they need to be concerned with all teams.
Ike Taylor may not be a world-beater, but he’s the best the Steelers have.
They need to hang on to him.
Poaching a division rival has become standard practice in the NFL. It’s good strategy to strengthen yourself at the expense of a rival and gone are the days when a player like Taylor would let playing for a rival get in the way of financial gain. (Nor should he, I’m not judging. I’ve eaten oatmeal for breakfast six of the last seven mornings and would probably go to play for the Ravens too.)
Per the aforementioned Jeff Reynolds:
“Baltimore needs to add size to a secondary that is fast but small. Baltimore’s top four cornerbacks are under 6 feet and none weigh [sic] more than 192 pounds. Adding some size would allow the Ravens to play more press coverage and match up better against physical receivers.”
I’ll admit, the most substantial reason the Browns are at the top is that they’re my guys and rarely, if ever, do I get to write anything that lists them as number one.
But at the same time, this isn’t a totally irresponsible pick.
Cleveland needs help in the secondary, particularly if Eric Wright is not retained and taking from the Steelers would be an added bonus.
Furthermore, in Ike Taylor the Browns would be hoping to add something (anything) of what the Steelers have—their toughness, their confidence, their culture.
The Browns are starting something very positive in Cleveland and the way to build it further is through a continued influx of talented youth and learned veterans.
Tom Heckert knows this.
Last year, he brought in Sheldon Brown, then followed him up with Joe Haden.
This year, he brings in Ike Taylor, then follows him up who who...