What We Learned This Week in the NFL Offseason:
- Former Steelers LB James Harrison close to signing with Bengals
- Helmet maker Riddell found responsible in trial over concussion
- NFL Regular Season schedule set to release this week
- Steelers match offer sheet to retain Emmanuel Sanders
The offseason of Salary Cap Hell has continued with the stomach-turning news that James Harrison is close to signing a deal with division-rival Cincinnati this week. I’ve expressed my opinions on the release of Harrison many a time and I think it was the fault of all parties involved that a deal was not reached and the team’s leading pass rusher was not retained. We can safely assume that Harrison is not going to sign for the $6.5 million he was originally due from the Steelers for this season before his release, so the fact that he’s now taking the pay cut that he wasn’t willing to take for the Steelers shows both him and his agent severely misjudged the market for 30-something linebackers and the Steelers severely misjudged the signability of Harrison. The idea that Ben Roethlisberger will now face Harrison twice a season does not sit very well with any Steeler fan. This shouldn’t have happened but there’s no way to turn back the clock and warn them. Best of luck to Harrison if he does, in fact, sign with the Bengals. Best of luck to the Steelers O-line and Ben having to go up against him twice a year.
A jury in Colorado has found helmet maker Riddell partially responsible for the concussion-related injuries of 22 year old former high school football player Rhett Ridolfi. Ridolfi suffered a concussion in football practice in 2008 and now suffers from severe brain damage and partial paralysis. The jury decided that Riddell is responsible for 27% of the $11.5 million they awarded Ridolfi in the lawsuit. The jury decided that Riddell was negligent in failing to warn players about concussions. The NFL and Riddell are currently facing a lawsuit from thousands of former NFL players with similar claims. We all know that technology is available now to equip players with helmets made to reduce risks of concussions, remember the Darth Vader helmet that Ryan Clark wore for most of last season after his back-to-back concussions? Riddell has had the licensing rights to NFL helmets since the dawn of time and one can only hope these lawsuits, if they lead to anything, lead to more technology being available to players from Pop Warner to the NFL.
Reports surfaced last night that the NFL 2013-14 Regular Season schedule will be released this week. The defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens will play the first game of the season on Thursday, September 5th most likely but will do so on the road thanks to a scheduling conflict with the Baltimore Orioles for the same night. Naturally, the Steelers are one of the possible opponents the Ratbirds could face on that opening road game which would suck something awful. It should be interesting to see how it plays out and who was picked to host that game.
The Steelers took it almost down to the wire but eventually matched the offer sheet on wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders last night, retaining him for at least one more season. Apparently Ben Roethlisberger did a lot of lobbying on behalf of keeping Sanders and his lobbying paid off. What happens next will most likely be more restructuring this week of other veterans’ contracts such as Troy Polamalu, in order to free up the cap space that’s needed to sign the draft picks and quite possibly other FA’s such as Doug Legursky, Charlie Batch, and possibly Ahmad Bradshaw. There ain’t a whole lot of money left to go around.
The decision to match the Patriots offer on Sanders or let him go and collect the 3rd round draft pick was debated every which way possible in the 5 days the Steelers were mulling over the offer. The biggest point of contention in letting Sanders go is the fact that this signs him only to one more season, at the $2.5 million. If Sanders is not signed to a longer deal before next season he will be an unrestricted free agent and free to sign with whomever offers him the most. Unlike the Mike Wallace situation, Sanders has an idea of the market for himself as it stands now. No one was willing last season to cough up big bucks plus a first round pick for Wallace as an RFA but Sanders has an idea of what other teams might throw at him as an UFA next year. If the Steelers can’t lock Sanders down to a long term deal at some point this might be one of their biggest mistakes in free agency ever. Obligating $2.5 million of cap space to essentially rent Sanders’ services for one season is pretty risky and uncharacteristic of the Steelers. The only way to have this move payoff is to be able to sign Sanders long term and not have to worry about wasting this money for a single season rental. Also, Sanders needs to not put the piggy on the ground!