The Pittsburgh Steelers Must Not Franchise Cornerback Keenan Lewis

By Curt Popejoy
Keenan Lewis
Jim O’Connor-USA TODAY Sports

A few days ago I did my updated 7-round mock draft for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In that mock I gave the Steelers University of Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant in the first round. I was very shocked at the amount of negative feedback I got from Steelers faithful about it. Most felt like the Steelers were going to keep cornerback Keenan Lewis and so cornerback wasn’t a need. I even had several fans tell me that the Steelers would franchise Lewis if need be to keep him on the team. That would be a horrible idea.

Last season there is no doubt Lewis was the best cornerback on the Steelers roster. But when you consider that fellow cornerback Ike Taylor is now 32 and whether Steelers fans want to admit it or not is diminishing in his skills, being the top coverage player on this team last year was no huge feat.

But the reality of the situation is while Lewis had a good season, it’s one good season. And if Steelers fans should know anything it’s that the front office is not going to overpay for a player who hasn’t shown they have earned it. The flip side of that is there are plenty of teams who are willing to throw money at a player after one good season. So Lewis might find his best chances and his best payday as a free agent. But no matter what, the Steelers should not, and I repeat not put the franchise tag on Lewis for the 2013 NFL season. The franchise for a cornerback this year is going to be north of $10 million. For a team already struggling to get under the cap, a decision like this would cause cuts and restructures elsewhere across the roster that this franchise cannot afford.

If anything next season should be about being fiscally conservative and building for 2014. Working to get some bad contracts off the books and loading up for another five or six year playoff run. As good as Lewis was last season, I just have a feeling unless he’s willing to take only a moderate raise in order to stay with the Steelers, he’s not going to be around in 2013. But both of those options are better than giving 9% of the cap of a 53 man roster to one player who has had one good season.

Curt covers the Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL draft, and college football for Rant Sports. You can connect with Curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard.

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