The Steelers have been working hard to get the under the cap enough to begin their ‘traditional’ paces of signing RFA’s and UFA’s on the 51-man roster. Tuesday signified the opening of the 2013 season and the beginning of free agency. If you are on Twitter at all and follow football folks of all walks, your feed would have been lit up from 4pm through the entire evening. There was a ton of activity in the free agency market, but as expected the Steelers focused on their own.
The Steelers inked deals with Jonathan Dwyer (one year tender), Plaxico Burress (one year minimum), Ramon Foster (three year deal), and Larry Foote (three year deal). They also released James Harrison on the eve of free agency. There’s been some other cuts between February and now that brought the Steelers within striking distance of the salary cap. So where do they stand on Day 2, and what can we expect for today and beyond?
The team is at about $115 million in salary right now. There’s about $5.5 million in ‘dead money’ that needs to be taken into account. This gives them about $3 million to work with. Not a lot, but it’s a starting point for negotiating some contracts like Keenan Lewis. It’s also important to note that the team needs to stay under the cap with their 51 man roster from here on out. In other words, someone will need to go before the team can sign bigger than the remainder of cap money left. I don’t have a PPG+ account to read the article but reports from others in Twitter’ville say that Ed B from the PPG is reporting that the Steelers are expected to release Willie Colon sometime today. That will free up around $5.5 million in cap money, brining the total available to almost $9 million.
$9 million is a more realistic number when talking about what Keenan Lewis might be asking for. I doubt the Steelers and Lewis would land at $9 million, but with 15+ other free agents waiting to sign deals money needs to be leftover in order to ink more deals without having to slice and dice more of the roster. Guys like Doug Legursky, long snapper Greg Warren are expected to come back, but could become casualties depending on how badly the Steelers want to keep Lewis. Other corners have been released (albeit over the age of 30) that are quickly saturating the market. This could lower Lewis’ value a bit, but the Steelers will still need to lay down the cash if they want to keep him as their #2 corner – which seems a little ridiculous to have two top paying corners with little splash results.
The Steelers have a potential backup quarterback visiting on Wednesday that could add a bit of complexity to the cap equation. Former Bengals backup QB Bruce Gradkowski could be the next backup, and if signed will certainly signal the end of Byron Leftwich’s career in Pittsburgh as well as Charlie Batch’s. The Steelers picked up earlier John Parker Wilson was expected to be the #3 guy under Batch and Roethlisberger. Depending on any deal, Gradkowski could take some of that precious money away.
How will the rest of this week and free agency flesh out before the draft? In my honest opinion it will be slow, quiet, and in ways disappointing. I hope the locker room troubles go away because there won’t be any splashes to shore up any holes in the roster.