The Broncos played 10 different cornerbacks in 2020 and recently cut their starting boundary corner A.J. Bouyé. To call the position a dire need is an understatement.
It’s the most obvious need on the team and one that George Paton will surely address at some point this off-season.
Fortunately the veteran market looks like it will be loaded at the position this March, so Paton has options if he goes that route. Bryce Callahan’s ability to fit into Fangio’s scheme as an inside or outside corner gives the Broncos flexibility with how to address the need. If Denver wants to double down on that versatility, former Steeler Cameron Sutton intrigues.
Cameron Sutton, Cornerback, Pittsburgh Steelers
Weight: 188 lbs.
Experience: 4 NFL Seasons
A third round pick in the 2017 draft, Sutton played sparingly his rookie season with just over 100 defensive snaps before a he landed on Injured Reserve due to a hamstring. He didn’t play more than 24.45% of the defensive snaps until 2020 when injuries to opened the door to more playing time.
Last year Sutton played in every game, logging 535 snaps on defense as he filled in for the Steeler’s Mile Hilton in the slot and both Steven Nelson and Joe Haden on the boundary. He finished with eight passes defensed, an interception, while allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete just 54% of their targets in his direction for 289 yards. By Sports Info Solutions charting he dropped three additional interceptions.
Cameron Sutton hasn't seen too much action early on in the season, but he is holding it down as per usual. Makes a key third-down stop against Jordan Akins here. Sutton playing off, sees the route combination, drives downhill, and gets his hand in there for a PBU. pic.twitter.com/MMY18E908D— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) September 30, 2020
Why it makes sense
The Broncos have an urgent need in their cornerback room for this season and beyond. Sutton’s age and versatility makes him an appealing free agent while his limited sample size could suppress his market. There’s a decent chance that Sutton will outplay his next contract in the right situation.
Sutton has been a strong slot corner when given the opportunity and looked competent on the boundary this past season. His versatility could give Vic Fangio another corner who’s capable of playing inside/outside. When you consider the Broncos have short term questions in lieu of the A.J. Bouye cut and have to consider Callahan’s significant injury history, Sutton’s flexibility is appealing.
On top of what Sutton provides to the defense he’s been a consistent contributor to the Steeler’s special teams. I doubt he’s the guy Fangio wants returning punts, but he has done it in his career so he can serve as an option there if needed.
Why it doesn’t make sense
There’s no way around the fact Sutton’s inexperience. He’s played all of 1,121 defensive snaps in his career. For comparison’s sake Michael Ojemudia’s already been on the field 821 in his young NFL career. This makes Sutton more of an unknown than most alternatives at cornerback. There isn’t as much film of him, so teams will need to project more.
Pittsburgh’s defense is pretty different than Fangio’s. Last year the Broncos’ head coach said cornerbacks fit across systems because they still need to cover and there’s a lot of truth in it, but Paton may not see Sutton as an ideal scheme fit.
Cameron Sutton has only played 75 defensive snaps this season but he has made every snap count. He's had two impressive pass breakups over the last two weeks and has been a great tackler. He's really come out strong in year three. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/KucsStZ8iS— Daniel Valente (@StatsGuyDaniel) October 10, 2019
There’s a few different contract projections for Sutton. Pro Football Focus and Over the Cap estimate that his next contract will come average less than $3 million per year, while Spotrac projects a deal in the $7 million range. With the cap ceiling an open question and Sutton’s role so small, it is hard to guess what the league thinks of his play.
The opening days of free agency routinely see big name players sign insane deals while a few head scratchers happen because teams are desperate to sign someone. I would hesitate to give Sutton a deal in the ballpark of what Callahan received in 2019 because he is so unproven, but he’s exactly the kind of second tier free agent I hope George Paton and the Broncos are considering. If he slips through the cracks, he could be a steal for his next team.
Should the Broncos consider Cameron Sutton?
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