The Detroit Lions made their first splash of free agency. NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport reported that the Lions signed former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton. The veteran cornerback joins Detroit on a three-year deal worth $33 million. Rapaport added that $22.5 million is guaranteed.
Source: The #Lions are signing Cam Sutton to a 3-year deal worth $33M with $22.5M guaranteed.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 13, 2023
Sutton was one of the best cornerbacks available on the free agent market. He was Pro Football Focus’ third-ranked free agent corner.
He is the first outside free agent signed by Detroit this offseason. The team re-signed defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs, running back Craig Reynolds and five exclusive rights free agents earlier today.
The 28-year-old corner enjoyed a career year in 2022 with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sutton finished the season with three interceptions and 15 passes defended this past season. Among cornerbacks with at least 400 coverage snaps, Sutton ranked ninth in receiving yards allowed with just 411 yards. He finished 2022 as PFF’s 28th highest-graded corner out of 118 eligible players.
Sutton’s physical tools do not jump off the page. He stands at 5-11, and he does not possess elite speed or length. However, he is one of the NFL’s most versatile cornerbacks. Sutton provides reliable coverage on the outside, but his ability to flex into the slot makes him incredibly valuable in nickel packages. He may not be the best long-term No. 1 corner, but he can provide high-end cornerback No. 2 play.
Cam Sutton’s fit with the Detroit Lions
Sutton provides an immediate upgrade to a Lions cornerback room that lacked significant talent and depth. Jeff Okudah took a step forward in development after struggling early in his career. However, he has not shown the high-end performances that made him the third overall pick back in 2020. Jerry Jacobs is a serviceable corner, but his upside is limited. Behind those two, the Lions did not have much.
Sutton can play as Detroit’s starting corner in base packages, then slide into the slot in nickel packages. While a cornerback group of Sutton, Okudah and Jacobs is already a significant improvement over last season, do not expect the Lions to be done targeting cornerback talent this offseason.
With the sixth, 18th, 44th and 55th picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, Detroit could still look to target cornerback talent early in the draft. The likes of Devon Witherspoon, Christian Gonzalez and Joey Porter Jr. headline this year’s class. However, Deonte Banks, Emmanual Forbes, Cam Smith and Tyrique Stevenson are also high-upside talents on the team’s radar in the first two rounds.
Signing Sutton early gives the Lions flexibility with their plan at cornerback this offseason. Attacking corner with one of the team’s two first-round picks is no longer a necessity, although it is still a possibility. Sutton is unlikely to become a perennial Pro Bowler in Detroit, and he is not going to be a superstar by any means. However, he will provide the reliable cornerback play the Lions desperately need for the 2023 season.
The Sutton signing does not become official until the start of the new league year at 4 p.m. EST on March 15.
(Featured Image Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)