Unrestricted free agent Keenan Lewis says he wants to remain with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it will come at quite the cost for the franchise.
That alone begs the question of if the Steelers will be able to afford to retain Lewis for the 2013 season and beyond?
There aren’t many good young corners in the NFL and Lewis certainly made his mark as one this season. In addition, he is coming off his first full season as a starter and led the NFL in passes defensed. Having Lewis on the other side of Ike Taylor was a big reason why the Steelers finished the season ranked No. 1 against the pass, allowing only 185 yards per game in the air.
Last year Lewis was a restricted free agent who made $1.26 million and looking back, he was smart not to seek a long-term deal, because his price tag has now gone way up.
“I didn’t want a contract in 2012,” Lewis told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Ed Bouchette. “I was just a nickel back. I probably would have told them to hold up on the contract anyway because I wanted to really establish myself as a starting cornerback. I didn’t want nickel-back money, I wanted starter money.”
Lewis has put himself in a good spot as he will be one of the top available corners on the open market and you have to wonder if he has priced himself out of the Steelers price range.
The Steelers will certainly want to keep Lewis. He is young, only turning 27 in May, and looks to be someone they can pair with Taylor for the foreseeable future. But with the Steelers not in the best salary cap shape, there is only so much they will be able to offer Lewis.
At the end of the day, while Lewis certainly wants to stay in Pittsburgh, money talks and some team will likely overpay for a good young corner who they feel one day could become a No.1 cornerback.
That will likely happen, which means Lewis could be in another uniform next season.
“I want what I feel I deserve. I’m not trying to ask for way more,” Lewis told Bouchette. “If they can work out a good deal with my agent, I’ll be here. I’ll always give them top priority because they’re the team that drafted me. Some teams will try to speculate how much I should get. That’s what [my agent is] for. I’m not going to speculate on $20 million, I’m not going to speculate on $50 million. I’ll let him work the numbers out from what I put on tape and my ability.”