In case you have not heard, this upcoming offseason is sure to be a difficult one for the Steelers’ Front Office. Pittsburgh’s brass must face the proverbial “music” over the next few months as they try their best to get their team under the 2013 salary cap. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Salary Cap is apparently going to be set at $121.1 million dollars for the 2013 season. Unfortunately for the Steelers, according to Spotrac.com, they are almost $13 million over the projected cap.
Although some restructures of certain players, and cuts could come in the form of expensive and injury-prone veterans (Willie Colon and James Harrison), G.M. Kevin Colbert and the rest of the Front Office must decide on the fates’ of their soon-to-be Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA’s) as they try to get under the cap.
Because the Steelers are a veteran laden team with 17 UFA’s, it will not be an easy task for Colbert & Co. as they eventually determine who should stay and who is allowed to go. I for one do not envy the work ahead of Colbert, or the franchise’s “Salary Cap Wizard” Omar Khan. Nevertheless, I thought that I would share my thoughts on each of Pittsburgh’s upcoming UFA’s today, and discuss whether or not I believe they will be signed next year.
The Steelers 2013 UFA’s
Lack of experienced depth at the Safety position should be cause enough for the Steelers to re-sign the soon to be 10th year veteran. To his credit, Allen stepped up in 2012, and played decent football for Pittsburgh on the Defensive side of the ball as he logged 34 Tackles and 1 Forced Fumble during the regular season. The soon to be 31 year-old is also a top contributor on Special Teams, and I would be shocked to see Pittsburgh part ways with a valuable role-player like him unless he asks for too much money. The Steelers should look to offer Allen, who just finished a 3-year $4.495 million dollar deal, a deal in the neighborhood of 2 years at $3.8 to $4.2 million to cover their depth and Special Teams bases’.
The Steelers will likely have to rid themselves of one of their veteran backup Quarterbacks for cap/rebuilding purposes this offseason, and Charlie Batch, who will be 39 in December, will likely be the signal-caller who sticks around for one more season with the team. “Chuckie” is still a capable backup, and even led Pittsburgh to an improbable win over the Ravens in Baltimore last year. Batch’s presence should be helpful to whichever young QB prospect the Steelers bring in during the offseason to groom as Big Ben’s eventual replacement. Colbert & Co. could sign Batch on the cheap yet again and tender him another 1-year deal in the $1 million dollar range (Batch made $990,000 last year) for 2013.
Pittsburgh will likely try to get younger at the Wide Receiver position this offseason, and they will probably cut ties with their 2000 1st Round pick. The Steelers do lack any sort of size at Wide Receiver, but I would figure that Pittsburgh’s Front Office would address that issue through the Draft as opposed to re-signing a soon to be 36 year-old veteran who lost two full seasons of his career to a prison sentence.
The decision regarding Larry Foote will be a tough one for Pittsburgh’s Front Office to make, and I for one am interested in seeing what the final verdict is on the Inside Linebacker’s future with the franchise. On one hand, Foote not only led the Steelers with 113 Tackles last year, but he also registered 4.0 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles, and 2 Fumble Recoveries from his Inside Linebacker spot.
But as nice as Foote’s season-long statline was, he proved to be a liability in pass-coverage as athletic Tight Ends ate him alive throughout 2012. What Foote has working in his favor for a return however is the fact that there is absolutely zero experienced depth at Inside Linebacker right now. Stevenson Sylvester has yet to prove he can be a starter, while Sean Spence is still recovering from the gruesome knee injury he suffered in the preseason finale last year.
But even if the Steelers do select an Inside Linebacker early like Alec Ogletree, said Rookie will undoubtedly be forced to rot on the bench by Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau no matter how talented they are. So while the Rookie is forced to sit, the Steelers will likely need Foote back for one more season. Foote made $3 million dollars in terms of a base salary in 2012, so the Steelers could decide to offer him another 1-year deal in that price range and see what happens.
At least to me, the Steelers should strongly consider re-signing Foster. Not only has he been a steady presence along Pittsburgh’s Offensive Line since his rookie season of 2009, the former UDFA has been a healthy and versatile presence as well (42 career starts). I believe that Foster deserves a chance to win the starting Left Guard position against Kelvin Beachum during the upcoming offseason.
And even if Foster does not overtake the 2012 7th Round pick, his versatility and presence as one of the League’s most experienced and effective backups should be rewarded by a team whose Offensive Line has been a downright casserole of madness due to injuries over the last half decade. Foster however should garner quite a bit of interest on the open market, and some team in need of a steady presence at Guard could give the 28 year-old a lucrative offer which Pittsburgh simply will not be able to match.
First of all, I have to tip my cap to “Big Snack” for his performance during the 2012 campaign. For a 35 year-old to play as effective as he did at the Nose Tackle position (26 Tackles and 4.0 TFL’s last year) is a credit to what an unsung hero the 2001 1st Round pick has been throughout his career. Sadly, Hampton’s career with the Steelers is probably at its end as the soon to be 36 year-old will likely be too expensive to keep. Also not helping Hampton’s case to stay is the fact that his backup, Steve McLendon, has made significant strides over the last two seasons, while Alameda Ta’amu and Hebron Fangupo are two younger and cheaper options to turn to behind McLendon.
If the Steelers can afford him, and he beats out Adrian Robinson, I would be happy if they brought Brandon Johnson back for Linebacker depth and Special Teams purposes. He was a Special Teams captain in Cincinnati, and if the Steelers have injuries yet again at Outside Linebacker, they should try to sign Johnson to another 1 year-deal in the $700,000 range (what he made last year) if Robinson is unable to contribute on Defense.
In terms of backups at the Cornerback position, it’s not a favorable situation for King. The Steelers have Cortez Allen as their Nickel Back, Curtis Brown as their Dime Back, and have DeMarcus Van Dyke, Josh Victorian, and Robert Golden as sub-package help. King would really need to wow the organization to stick and stay in a backup role, and he will likely be looking for work elsewhere this Fall.
Leftwich is likely going to be the “odd man out” in the Quarterback Derby in Pittsburgh if Charlie Batch does not retire in the next few months. The Steelers will almost assuredly cut ties with Leftwich this offseason as it would make zero sense whatsoever to keep a 33 year-old backup on the roster who has been perpetually injured over the last three seasons, and completed only 30 of his 60 pass attempts.
To his credit, Legursky has been a solid backup to Maurkice Pouncey over the last three years (17 Starts), and played some of his best football when Pouncey went down during the 2010-2011 postseason. In addition to his ability to be a the team’s top backup at Center, the 2008 UDFA has chipped in at Left and Right Guard over said span too. It could however come down to a “numbers game” and a “financial game” for Legursky this offseason, especially if the Steelers elect to re-up Foster who will likely command more money than him due to his ability to play at Tackle. Nevertheless, the Steelers could definitely try to offer the soon-to-be 26 year old a 3-year deal worth close to $4.5 million (2012: 1 year, $1.26 million) to back-up Pouncey and the other two Interior Linemen.