The Detroit Lions had a major need at cornerback coming into the offseason, and the team wasted little time checking it off during the legal tampering period.
Early after the tampering period opened, the Lions struck to add Cameron Sutton, formally of the Pittsburgh Steelers, to a new deal to take over in their backfield.
News of the agreement with Sutton was first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Monday, March 13.
“Source: The Lions are signing Cam Sutton to a 3-year deal worth $33M with $22.5M guaranteed,” Rapoport tweeted.
The move guaranteed the Lions would land one of the top cornerbacks during free agency. As soon as the report of the deal was revealed, folks wasted little time chiming in and explaining what the team was getting in Sutton.
Former NFL defensive back Will Blackmon put it simply when he saw the news with a re-tweet. As he said, Sutton is a baller.
“Baller,” Blackmon tweeted after seeing the news.
Another former NFL defensive back in Jason McCourty liked the move himself. As McCourty said, it was a nice pickup for Detroit relative to what Sutton brings to the mix for the Lions’ young defense.
“Versatile guy who’s played well in Pittsburgh! Has played outside corner and in the slot! Nice pickup for this young Lions defense,” McCourty tweeted.
In terms of the metrics, Sutton has been phenomenal in Pittsburgh, especially during the 2022 season. As Twitter user Lions Guy showed, the stats are in favor of Sutton being one of the better corners in the league with regard to metrics.
“Lions new CB Cameron Sutton: 71.6 DEF. 73.6 RDEF. 70.4 COV. Was targeted 71 times for 36 catches 412 yards. 3 picks and 8 PBUs. 28 years old and entering his prime. Detroit needed a player like him. Primarily an outside corner but can play inside too,” the account tweeted.
Better than that, Sutton is a gritty player that stands up to opposing wideouts. Mike Kennedy explained in a tweet that last season, Sutton only allowed just over a 50% completion percentage.
“Cameron Sutton allowed just a 50.7% completion percentage in his coverage in 2022, 5th best among CBs targeted 50+ times. He also had 16 combined INTs & forced incompletions – 6th best in the NFL,” Kennedy tweeted.
Additionally, Sutton is a smart player, something that those who watched him up close in Pittsburgh got to know, as Steelers beat writer Mark Kaboly from The Athletic pointed out.
“Every single player, coach, front office guy on the Steelers say the same thing about Cam Sutton — smartest player on the field,” Kaboly tweeted.
All of this combined to make those who cover the Steelers very frustrated to lose Sutton, a key piece of the defense. As Josh Carney of Steelers Depot tweeted, he’s a major loss for the team’s secondary.
“The Steelers took a gamble on Cameron Sutton re-signing and very clearly lost that gamble. Thought for sure the team would get him locked up to a multi-year extension before tampering window opened. Big, big loss. He did so much for that defense the last two years,” Carney tweeted.
Add it up and it sounds as if the Lions did well to nab Sutton on the open market. Already, plenty of folks are praising the fit.
Cameron Sutton Fills Major Need for Lions
In terms of why the Lions moved on Sutton, the decision was likely easy in the end. Detroit needs help on the back end after a very ugly season in 2022 with regards to pass defense.
Detroit finished 30th in pass defense in 2022, allowing 26 touchdowns and over 245 yards per-game on average. Worse, they allowed a total of 4,179 yards through the air.
Enter Sutton, who has been sticky on the back end in Pittsburgh. With the steelers, he allowed just 32 receptions as NFL Next Gen Stats tweeted. By the other account, the Lions themselves allowed the highest CPOE in 2022.
“Cameron Sutton allowed just 32 receptions on 72 targets in 2022. His 44.4% completion percentage allowed was tied for the 4th-lowest in a season since 2016 (min. 50 targets). Sutton will join a Lions secondary that allowed the highest CPOE (+1.5%) in the NFL in 2022,” the site tweeted.
As Brett Whitefield showed in a tweet, Sutton is very capable on the back end, and is ball-hawkish, which is something Detroit could use. The Lions only snagged 12 interceptions as a team last season.
“Here are some of new Lions CB Cam Sutton’s best plays from 2022. Dude has ball skills for days,” Whitefield tweeted.
Sutton coming into the mix should immediately tighten things up for Detroit on the back end. The team can also elect to draft a player in a quality 2023 draft class as well, so the signing did not have an “all or nothing” feel for the Lions.
Cameron Sutton’s Career Stats & Highlights
Sutton is still a very young player, being that he is just 27 and came into the league as a third-round pick out of Tennessee back in 2017.
In college, Sutton was productive for the Volunteers given he racked up 127 tackles and seven interceptions. He also had one touchdown and 30 passes defended to go with three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries while in school.
Coming to the NFL, things haven’t been different. Sutton has produced stats in the league as well, with 158 tackles, two sacks, seven interceptions and five forced fumbles since he burst on the scene with Pittsburgh.
Sutton could be primed for a much bigger role, and the Lions can offer that opportunity to a young player that is seemingly on the rise for the future.