Steelers give Cowboys chance to improve secondary depth by releasing veteran

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals
Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals / Michael Hickey/GettyImages

By trading for Stephon Gilmore, the Dallas Cowboys could focus on addressing other positions early in the 2023 NFL Draft. They traded up in the sixth round for Southern Miss product Eric Scott Jr., but bypassed a corner with their first five picks.

While fans would have liked to see Dallas invest on a cornerback with one of their early selections given Gilmore is likely a one-year rental -- unless he turns in a Pro Bowl-caliber season -- there wasn't an urgent need to do so.

The Cowboys could simply draft a cornerback in Round 1 next year.

Speaking strictly in terms of 2023, though, one could argue Dallas is perfectly fine at the position. With Gilmore, Trevon Diggs, DaRon Bland and Jourdan Lewis in tow, Dan Quinn has four starting-caliber CBs at his disposal.

At the same time, though, it could never hurt to add more depth and the Steelers just so happened to release Ahkello Witherspoon this week.

Should Cowboys sign former Steelers CB Ahkello Witherspoon?

Witherspoon's release isn't much of a surprise after the Steelers drafted Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. with the first pick of the second round and Purdue corner Cory Trice Jr. in the seventh round. These selections followed Pittsburgh inking veteran Patrick Peterson to a two-year contract in free agency.

With just seven starts over the last two seasons, the Steelers clearly felt comfortable releasing Witherspoon. That's not to say he wouldn't be a worthwhile pickup, however. In fact, we'd venture to say he'll sign with another team relatively soon if the Cowboys don't beat everyone else to the proverbial punch.

Witherspoon's 2022 was marred by a hamstring injury and poor showings against the Bengals' Ja'Marr Chase and Eagles' A.J. Brown. The Steelers are partially to blame for that, however, as Witherspoon has never been regarded as a corner who can shut down an opposing team's top receiver.

That speaks to how thin Pittsburgh as at CB last season. It's a shame Witherspoon paid the price by losing his job, but he's better served on a team that'll better utilize his skillset.

A former third-round pick of the 49ers, Witherspoon brings ideal size to the table at 6-foot-2. He's just a season removed from posting three interceptions and nine passes defended. In 2021, he logged a 78.8 coverage grade from PFF and allowed a 48.0 passer rating on 33 targets in coverage over nine games.

Witherspoon was even better in 2020. In 11 games (four starts) for San Francisco, he boasted a 80.9 coverage grade and allowed two touchdowns.

Coming off a down year and having just been released, Witherspoon fits right into the Cowboys' wheelhouse as a cost-effective player. Should they cut (or trade) Jourdan Lewis, or simply not feel comfortable playing Nahshon Wright or Kelvin Joseph, it couldn't hurt giving Witherspoon a look.

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