Cook: What's not to like about Ike and his new deal?

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Let's see, where were we Sunday when we were so rudely interrupted by Ben Roethlisberger's emergency appendectomy?

That's right, the Ike Taylor signing.

There are at least three very good reasons why it's a great deal for the Steelers, four if you count the obvious:

Taylor is a terrific young cornerback, a player on the rise at a demanding position where it is difficult to find stars. The last thing the Steelers wanted was to lose him as a free agent after this season.

Taylor's five-year deal, which takes him through the 2010 season, assures a strong measure of continuity on the Steelers' defense. If you are among those of us who believe that defense wins championships, you'll be thrilled to know that all of the team's defensive starters are signed through at least the '07 season, some beyond. Linebacker James Farrior is signed through '08. Nose tackle Casey Hampton and linebacker Larry Foote are signed through '09.

Continuity, indeed.

There's no reason the Steelers, with their stout defense, shouldn't be able to take another run at a Super Bowl, not just this season, but for at least a few seasons after it.

Another benefit of Taylor's new contract for the Steelers is that it came at the right price -- $22.5 million, which includes a $6.4 million signing bonus. The team clearly won this negotiation. Taylor came down significantly from where he started in the process; all indications are that he was after a $10 million bonus. There's no way the Steelers were going to pay that. They almost never overpay and certainly weren't going to do it with a guy who has been a starter for just one season.

To his credit, Taylor took charge of his future. That's how it should be. You often read about players who put their careers in the hands of their agent and allow him to become the bad guy when a deal isn't struck. Taylor isn't one of those players. He made it clear to his agent, Scott Smith, that he was paying him to get a deal done with the Steelers.

"I only had to say it one time," Taylor said.

The significance of Taylor's signing for the Steelers goes well beyond the saving of a few million. Safety Troy Polamalu's contract is up after the '07 season, as are those of linebackers Joey Porter and Clark Haggans and defensive end Aaron Smith. If you're ranking those players in terms of importance of being re-signed, Polamalu is No. 1 followed by Smith, Haggans and Porter. Linebacker James Harrison was signed in April to a new four-year deal through the '09 season, giving the team long-term insurance in case Porter and/or Haggans leave.

The Steelers will begin negotiations with Polamalu after this season. They won't want him to get anywhere near his walk year. To keep him, the team will have to pay him significantly more than Taylor. His versatility is what makes their defense so unique and effective. If the Steelers had given Taylor that eight-figure bonus, they would have had to go to an astronomical number for Polamalu. He still won't come cheap, but at least Taylor's contract gives the team a starting point in the negotiations.

Now, the reason this contract also benefits Taylor.

Actually, there are 6.4 million reasons.

They can't take that bonus back from Taylor, 26, no matter how he plays this season, meaning he's set for life.

What value do you put on that peace of mind?

Taylor no longer has to worry about his future, about where he'll be playing next season, about what impact a dropped interception or getting beat for a touchdown will have on his contract. Most of all, he no longer has to worry about a serious injury sabotaging his value in a heartbeat.

Taylor can go into the season with a clear head.

That's the only way to play against the NFL's best receivers, starting with the Miami Dolphins' Chris Chambers Thursday night.



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