Good time to lock up the lockdown CB

The Steelers, Mark Kaboly explains, need to target the man teams have been reluctant to target this season -- because that won't be the case when the doors to free agency open in March.

Ike Taylor has been swaggin' with the best of them lately.

And once the season is over, the self-proclaimed Swagger U. grad is going to swag himself to the nearest bank with a pretty swaggin' check.

You swag?

Maybe, just maybe, part of the check Taylor will get from a team within the next four months should go to Bryant McFadden.

McFadden is making Taylor's impending new deal grow exponentially by the game. The way it looks now, Taylor's annual payday has just surpassed $7 million, and very well could approach $8 million if the current trends continue.

Yes, McFadden has been that bad.

And yes, Taylor has been that good.

Sure, rewarding Taylor with a new deal in-season is not the way the Steelers go about their business, or probably not even a very sound decision knowing the uncertainty of the 2011 season, but the Steelers appear to have no other choice but to lock up Taylor for the next four or five years.

And the sooner they do so, the better. Yesterday was probably preferable if you ask anyone who's watched Taylor this season.

He has just 9 passes defended and 2 interceptions through 12 games, but he's truly been dominant. Teams aren't even looking his way anymore.

This past Sunday night, Baltimore's Joe Flacco threw at Taylor twice – both of which fell incomplete.

Of course, some of that has to do with McFadden being a more attractive target, as is nickel back William Gay.

And that's why the Steelers must throw a pile of money Taylor's way, in the hope that his loyalty to the organization will steer him away from the open market where he'd surely get more.

In March, Taylor could become an unrestricted free agent, and cornerbacks are very hard to come by in the NFL. Good cornerbacks on the free-agent market are unheard of, and when they do hit the open market they get paid.

Taylor is in his final year of a $23.75 million contract extension that he signed in September 2006. For comparison's sake, Atlanta gave Dunta Robinson $57 million for six years last March, and he was a big-time injury risk.

Of course, Taylor is 30 years old. But he has a healthy past and played only two years of college football. It's possible Taylor is just now hitting his prime years and reaching his potential.

Denver's Champ Bailey, Cincinnati's Johnathan Joseph and Cleveland's Eric Wright could all become free agents at the end of the year, making it a deep free-agent class, but you'd have to believe Taylor will be as coveted as anybody on the market, and that includes the perennial Pro Bowler Bailey.

The Steelers are probably banking on a hometown discount, but they can't depend on it, not with their situation at cornerback. McFadden was supposed to be an upgrade for Gay when they reacquired him, but that hasn't happened. Instead, teams are targeting McFadden every chance they get.

Last week in Baltimore, Flacco went after McFadden 10 times. He completed 5 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. McFadden was also called for 2 pass interference penalties. With Arizona last year, he was targeted a league-leading 113 times.

The organization has tried to address the problem through the draft, but doesn't seem any farther along after drafting three cornerbacks over the past two years. Keenan Lewis flamed out after a pretty good training camp this year and Joe Burnett was cut. The jury's still out on rookie Crezdon Butler, but even if he is in the Steelers' future it's hard to depend on a guy who hasn't seen the field yet.

The Steelers could always slap the franchise tag on Taylor and pay him approximately $10 million next season. But who knows if there will even be a franchise tag when the new CBA is signed?

Whatever the Steelers decide, or however they decided to do it, the end result must be this: The guy playing right cornerback next season had better be swaggin'.

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