Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC North [Print without images]

Monday, February 28, 2011
What is Ike Taylor's asking price?

By By James Walker

Last week the Oakland Raiders paid cornerback Stanford Routt $31.5 million over three years, which is an average of more than $10 million per season.

Most AFC North fans are probably asking, "Who is Stanford Routt?" And that is the point.

It's a great year to be a free-agent cornerback in the NFL. Even low-profile ones like Routt are getting a ton of money this offseason, which does not bode well for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The reigning AFC champion and Super Bowl runners-up have begun preliminary negotiations with Ike Taylor, who is Pittsburgh's No. 1 cornerback. The Steelers are very thin at that position, and it is perhaps their biggest need entering next season.

But when players like Routt, who recorded two interceptions last season as Oakland's No. 2 cornerback, are getting more than $10 million per season, that drives up the market for all free-agent corners. Taylor is not a shutdown player, but he is solid at the position. He recorded 66 tackles and two interceptions last season.

The Cincinnati Bengals have the same issue with pending free agent Johnathan Joseph, who is 26 and in his prime. Cincinnati only has one player (quarterback Carson Palmer) making more than $10 million per season, and the Bengals probably won't go that high for Joseph.

Now that the franchise tag has gone to outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, the Steelers will be negotiating with other teams for Taylor, who will soon become an unrestricted free agent.

Would Taylor ask for more than $10 million per season? If so, it becomes questionable that he would return to Pittsburgh. It's also possible Taylor, who spent his entire career in Pittsburgh, would accept a "home-team discount," despite the high going rate for corners.

We won't have any firm answers until the NFL and NFLPA reaches a new collective bargaining agreement. But keep an eye on this development in Pittsburgh.