Posted by Ryan Wilson
Here's a headline that should surprise absolutely no one: "Arizona Cardinals could be interested in Ike Taylor."
A lot has to happen for the Cardinals to land the soon-to-be free agent cornerback who spent the first eight years of his career with the Steelers, but since Ken Whisenhunt became coach in 2007, the Pittsburgh-to-Arizona player pipeline has flowed freely.
Before getting the head coaching gig with the Cards, Whisenhunt was the Steelers offensive coordinator. In the four years since he arrived in Arizona, the Cardinals have signed Joey Porter, Sean Morey, Alan Faneca, Jerame Tuman, Bryant McFadden, Brian St. Pierre, and Dan Kreider -- all former Steelers. And there's Whisenhunt's staff: Russ Grimm (an assistant under Bill Cowher) is the Cardinals assistant head coach, Ray Horton (an assistant under Mike Tomlin) is the new defensive coordinator, and Deshea Townsend (a Steelers cornerback from 1998-2009) is the new defensive backs coach. (We won't even mention the Steelers-Cards ball boy connection.)
Ike Taylor's immediate future is contingent on many things, chief among them: the owners and players settling on a new collective bargaining agreement. Beyond that, it will come down to demand and, of course, money. At various stages of the offseason Taylor has hinted that he wanted to stay in Pittsburgh but that he wasn't interested in giving any hometown discounts to do so.
We suppose there's a chance Taylor lands in Arizona (affectionately known as Pittsburgh West), but a lot will have to happen before it gets to that point. Sports 620 KTAR radio's Ron Wolfley (who also calls Cardinals' games, and whose brother, Craig, is a sideline reporter for the Steelers radio network) breaks out the hypotheticals:
"Let's say they deal [Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie] and bring in Kevin Kolb as their quarterback," Wolfley said, according to ArizonaSports.com. "Does Ike Taylor make sense at the corner opposite of Patrick Peterson? I can tell you it makes perfect sense for so many different reasons. Number one, we're talking about a grizzled veteran. A guy who is a true players pro. He's a professional. A guy that would mentor a young Patrick Peterson. A guy that has been in the league nine years and he's been durable as well. He's missed three games in nine years.
"This is a guy who would be a perfect fit because he already knows Ray Horton's defense. He'd have to be brought up to speed on the terminology but playing corner is not exactly the same as playing quarterback in the National Football League if you get my drift. Ike Taylor could do it. You could bring him in. He'd be the perfect guy in this system."
But Taylor wouldn't come cheap (not to mention DRC for Kolb isn't likely). He'll be one of the most sought-after cornerbacks in free agency after Nnamdi Asomugha. And then there's this: recent history suggests that 31-year-old cornerbacks, even those coming off solid seasons, usually see their productivity drop off a cliff in subsequent seasons.
That's not a guarantee that a similar fate awaits Taylor. (Champ Bailey and Charles Woodson have defied the odds. Of course, Taylor was at no point in his career as good as either Bailey or Woodson, so that's worth keeping in mind, too.) But it's a lot of money to spend on a cornerback with his best days likely behind him. Even if he's expected to mentor rookie Patrick Peterson.
By the way, by most accounts, Peterson is a high-character guy who doesn't seem to need much in the way of mentoring. (And if he does, Townsend would be perfectly suited for that role.) Using that logic, Taylor would make perfect sense in Baltimore. But we're pretty sure that ain't happening.
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