Harris: Taylor Loss Could Cripple Steelers
Harris, John, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Get to know Keenan Lewis. He has 12 career tackles and no interceptions in his two NFL seasons. He's a candidate to start at right cornerback if the Steelers don't re-sign unrestricted free agent Ike Taylor.
So are nickel back William Gay and Crezdon Butler, who has one tackle in four games.
That's the risk the Steelers are taking in their game of chicken with Taylor. In declining to make Taylor a transition player by Thursday's deadline, the Steelers will allow him to enter the free agent market if they are unable to sign him by March 3.
The Steelers no longer have exclusive rights to Taylor, who has never missed a game because of injury. As a result, the Steelers will be forced to negotiate against other teams.
The AFC champs traditionally offer contracts to key players before they enter the final year of their existing deal. It's a strategy that allows them to set the pay scale for their free agents.
Deviating from that strategy might cost them one of their best players.
The Steelers rarely lose control during contract negotiations. This appears to be one of those occasions. Taylor is represented by Joel Segal, whose client list includes Michael Vick, Reggie Bush, Chris Johnson, Santonio Holmes, LaRon Landry, Percy Harvin and Steelers Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey.
In 2010, Business Insider Law Review recognized Segal as the ninth-most powerful sports agent in America. Segal was one of only two agents to represent multiple first-round draft picks each year from 2006-10. Segal is so good that he got a six-year, $54 million contract for cornerback DeAngelo Hall with the Washington Redskins after the Oakland Raiders released Hall less than a year into a seven-year, $70 million deal.
"This is a good time for me to be a free agent," Taylor said. "Teams (have seen) my tape. They know my consistency. What I'm doing now, I've been doing for a long time. People are finally paying attention."
The price tag for Taylor increased this week when Oakland re- signed little-known cornerback Stanford Routt for $31.5 million over three years. The deal includes $20 million guaranteed in the first two years.
"I think the front office has taken him for granted and thinks it can get a hometown discount," said Dave-Te' Thomas, the director of operations for Scouting Services Inc., a company used by 27 of the NFL's 32 teams. "Let Taylor walk, and watch the (New York) Giants, (Houston) Texans, Carolina (Panthers) and New Orleans (Saints) get in a bidding war for him. …