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Cornerback McFadden signs with Arizona

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By Scott Brown
Monday, March 9, 2009

The Steelers lost their first starter to free agency Sunday when cornerback Bryant McFadden signed a two-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals, according to the Associated Press. The deal is worth $10 million, according to ESPN.

McFadden, a second-round draft pick in 2005, overtook Deshea Townsend as the starter opposite Ike Taylor last season and recorded 41 tackles and two interceptions despite missing five games because of injuries.

William Gay, a fifth-round draft pick in 2007 who started four games last season, is expected to get the first crack at McFadden's old job.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said recently that Gay answered any questions last season about whether he is capable of starting on a full-time basis.

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Gay had 41 tackles and an interception in 16 games for the Steelers last season.

"I think we've got a good, quality player there," LeBeau said of Gay, "who should continue to grow."

Free agency has compromised the Steelers' depth in the secondary.

Safety Anthony Smith has signed with the Packers, according to ESPN. Smith, once thought to be among the Steelers' most promising prospects, fell out of favor with the coaching staff near the end of the 2007 season. He started 10 games in 2007 but is best known for his ill-fated guarantee that the Steelers would beat the then-undefeated Patriots.

Smith, whom the Patriots beat on several big pass plays, played sparingly last season and did not dress for Super Bowl XLIII.

McFadden had been widely considered one of the top cornerbacks on the free-agent market, although Dominique Foxworth (Falcons) and Ronald Bartell (Rams) signed lucrative long-term deals before he agreed to terms with the Cardinals.

The Steelers have also lost wide receiver Nate Washington to free agency. Wide receiver and the defensive backfield might be two of the more pressing needs for the team as it prepares for next month's draft.

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