March 14, 2013

First Splash: NOLA Native Lewis

Ex-Steelers Keenan Lewis is the first addition by the Saints this offseason, the first splash the team has made in three-day old free agent market.

Lewis, 26, graduated from O. Perry Walker High School and attended Oregon State.  Tall and well-built for a cornerback at 6'0, 208 pounds, Lewis emerged as a full time starter in 2012 for the first time.  Lewis has spent four seasons in Pittsburgh, the final pick of the 3rd round of the 2009 draft.

Lewis did not contribute through his first two seasons for the Steelers, but collected 108 total tackles in 30 games the past two seasons, starting all 16 games for the Steelers in 2012.  Lewis only has one career NFL interception, and none in 2012.  But Lewis was credited with 23 passes defensed, second in the NFL in 2012.

One of a many cornerbacks flooding the free agent market this offseason, Lewis joins Antoine Winfield, Aqib Talib, Brent Grimes, Chris Houston, Darrelle Revis, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Charles Woodson, Chris Houston, former Saint Tracy Porter, Derek Cox, Sean Smith and Nnamdi Asomugha on the free agent market.  The Saints were also interested in Cox and had a visit scheduled, but Cox signed in San Diego.

The Saints gave Lewis a longer contract that other free agent cornerbacks in order to lower his 2012 cap hit, as the team is very tight on cap space.  His salary for 2013 is only $1 million.  The deal is reportedly a $26.3 million deal over five years with $10.5 million in guarantees, including a $6 million signing bonus.

Hurricane Katrina displaced Lewis and his family in 2005, when they evacuated to Natchitoches.  Lewis was reportedly eager to return to his hometown of New Orleans.

Lewis brings more height and at least 20 more pounds to the field than either 2012 starting cornerback, Patrick Robinson or Jabari Greer, and excelled covering slot receivers for the Steelers.  A physical and smart cornerback, Lewis made a big step forward in 2012 for the Steelers in the final year of his rookie contract.

Lewis struggled with injuries at Oregon State but had a great senior season to earn his third round draft status.

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