New Detroit Lions cornerback Cam Sutton walked into the press room at the team’s Allen Park practice facility Thursday and made his way down the line of assembled media, shaking hands and introducing himself to the dozen or so reporters on hand.
Sutton signed his three-year, $33 million contract a few hours earlier, and the Lions’ biggest acquisition of free agency made it clear, in his actions and words, that his value goes beyond what he brings to the field.
“It’s going to be just beyond the game, the production of the game, all those values of the game, but just really embracing that leadership role,” Sutton said. “I’ve been around plenty of great leaders just throughout the years, even in my own position group who have really molded my game, really molded how I carry myself as an individual. … And just really embracing that role.”
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At 28 years old and entering his seventh NFL season, Sutton arrives as the veteran of a young Lions secondary and one of the most experienced players on defense, though he insisted Thursday, “I wouldn’t even say I’m old, man. … I’m forever young.”
A product of one of the NFL’s most respected organizations, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sutton counts Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, former Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and the Rooney family that owns the team as some of his biggest influences as a leader.
And he said he’s ready to share the wisdom he learned during his six seasons in Pittsburgh with his new cornerback room in Detroit.
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The Lions brought in two potential starters in free agency, Sutton and former San Francisco 49ers cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, and return Jeff Okudah, Jerry Jacobs, Will Harris and Chase Lucas from last season. Okudah, Jacobs and Lucas are still on rookie deals.
“I’m so excited for this opportunity,” Sutton said. “I’m just speaking from experience and just the things that have been my mold of being able to, again, put me in this situation to be able to do this for this organization, to be who I need to be, to be who I need to be for the guys and for this team. And like I said, I’m head over heels excited about that and just as much (about the) challenge. You really embrace that. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be fun. I’m not shying away from nothing, the expectation here or anything that’s necessarily needed from (me as) an individual. And we’ll be able to come together.”
As a player, the Lions are counting on Sutton to bring stability and versatility to the back end of a defense that gave up the third-most passing yards in the NFL (245.8 ypg) in 2022.
Sutton projects to start at one outside cornerback spot, with Moseley perhaps at the other, though he can play in the slot or bump over to safety if needed.
He has steadily improved as a player in his six NFL seasons, and is coming off the most productive season of his career. Last year, Sutton set career-highs with three interceptions and 15 passes defensed in 16 games.
“He’s a reliable player,” said Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone, who has been training partners with Sutton for years. “He’s consistent, athletic, everything that you’d want at that cornerback position that can benefit our team greatly.”
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Sutton said the Lions were the first team to reach out to him when the free agent negotiating period opened Monday. He called his decision to move on from the Steelers “mutual.”
“The business side aspect just didn’t work out,” he said.
And he said “it was really kind of a no-brainer” to sign with a Lions team that he believes is poised for big things.
“We’re close,” Sutton said. “The organization is ready to turn the hump. Regardless of what you may see or what you may think or any of that stuff, we’re here to play. We’re not here just to show up and be in this building and just say we’re a part of this league. We’re here to leave our mark. And again, we’re right there.”
Contact Dave Birkett at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.