As CBS Sports reporter Jason La Canfora tweeted early Monday and as our parent site FanSided followed up on, the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of a handful of teams to express interest in free-agent cornerback Nolan Carroll.
Carroll, a 27-year-old who has played all four of his NFL seasons with the Dolphins, has served primarily in a backup role for Miami over the past two years, starting just four combined games over that span. He doesn’t project to command a big contract, so in that sense he’s a fit for the Steelers’ small budget.
However, unless his career has a sudden change of course or the Steelers think their scheme is a better match for his skills, it’s difficult to get that worked up about Carroll one way or another.
But what the interest in Carroll may indicate is the Steelers’ willingness to let veteran corner Ike Taylor go. Carroll certainly doesn’t figure to replace Taylor, although pursuing him may just be part of Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert’s plan to fill out his secondary in an alternative fashion.
Taylor, 33, didn’t look out of his depth last fall, but he’s not the difference-maker on the outside that he once was. His salary-cap hit in 2014 will be about $11 million, making it difficult to justify keeping Taylor onboard for his 12th pro season.
As Matt Shetler wrote last month, the Steelers can save around $7 million by releasing Taylor outright, money that could be spent to replenish the cornerback position with someone younger. Taylor could also return at a reduced rate if he’s willing, and perhaps the Carroll interest shows an arrangement is in the works to do just that.
Nevertheless, we can expect the Steelers to further restructure their defense as they try to create more space under the salary cap in the future. Earlier in the day, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported they will designate underachieving linebacker LaMarr Woodley for release at 4 p.m. Tuesday, when free agency opens.
Keep it here on City of Champions for more coverage of NFL free agency from a Pittsburgh perspective.