The Pittsburgh Steelers could be on the cusp of a radical makeover of the team’s secondary, as three of its cornerbacks and two of its safeties are unrestricted free agents. Faced with the possible loss of CB1 Joe Haden and fellow cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon and Arthur Mallet, the Steelers are no doubt considering free agent defensive backs from other teams.
According to Andrew Fillipponi, co-host of “The PM Team w/Poni & Mueller” on 93.7 FM in Pittsburgh, that includes a former second-round pick who won the Super Bowl in 2021 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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“The Steelers are targeting Bucs free agent corner Carlton Davis,” said Fillipponi during the Thursday March 10 show before noting that his source “is someone who works in football,” but not for the Steelers.
Who Is Tampa Bay Bucs CB Carlton Davis?
Carlton Davis is a 25-year-old cornerback with prototypical size for the position (6-foot-1 and 206 pounds). The Buccaneers selected him No. 63 overall in the 2018 NFL draft out of Auburn, and he started 50 games during his first four years in the league. Along the way he contributed 207 total tackles (175 solo), along with six interceptions, 52 passes defensed, nine tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries, as per Pro Football Reference.
“The only reason why the Bucs did not franchise tag him—from what this (source) told me—is because of (wide receiver) Chris Godwin,” added Fillipponi, referring to one of Davis’ teammates. “They actually had a debate about which one to franchise tag and they settled on Godwin, but it was not an open-and-shut, black-and-white thing.”
The Steelers Have a Track Record When It Comes to Spending on Cornerbacks
Historically speaking, the Steelers have rarely been big players in free agency, but the cornerback position is a notable exception.
In March 2019, the Steelers signed unrestricted free agent Steven Nelson to a three-year, $25.5 million contract. He had a largely successful two seasons with the team before the Steelers gave him permission to seek a trade in early March 2021. Later that month the Steelers terminated his contract in a cost-cutting measure.
Those signings lend credence to the idea that the Steelers could make a significant investment in a free agent cornerback.
How Much Might Davis Command in Free Agency?
If the Steelers hope to secure Davis’ services, they will likely need to spend much more than they did on either Steven Nelson or Joe Haden. For one point of reference, Pro Football Focus (PFF) has Davis as its No. 3 rated free agent cornerback behind J.C. Jackson and Stephon Gilmore.
“Carlton Davis is one of very few good, young cornerbacks set to hit the free-agent market and among an even shorter list of cornerbacks with the ability to play man coverage and battle head-to-head with an opposing team’s No. 1 wide receiver,” notes PFF, which projects Davis to receive a four-year contract worth $66 million, with $42.5 million guaranteed.
“This person who works inside the NFL told me that the Steelers will make what they believe is a serious offer to Carlton Davis,” concluded Fillipponi. “I know that they think that this player is not out of reach—and not like a pipe dream, fantasy world thing…. If the Steelers had it their way, this is the player they’d get.”
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