What Fernando Velasco did for the Pittsburgh Steelers during 11 regular season games this season was nothing short of fantastic.
Signed off the street after Maurkice Pouncey suffered a knee injury on opening day, Velasco proved to be a valuable stop-gap at the center position until he went down with an Achilles injury near the end of Pittsburgh’s Week 13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Although Velasco’s 2013 campaign ended prematurely, he seems to be in good spirits and primed to make a full recovery in 2014 according to Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider:
Fernando Velasco, in boot with Achilles injury, said he'll "definitely be ready for OTAs." Of course, he'll be a free agent after season.
— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) December 18, 2013
Personally, I would love nothing more than for Pittsburgh’s brass to find a way to ink the impending UFA to a new contract this spring. Not only did Velasco prove that he could be a heady stop-gap for the team to turn to when they are in a pinch, his presence allows Kelvin Beachum to play left tackle or provide depth at the offensive line’s other three positions.
As most of you already know Pittsburgh’s offensive line has been a glorified MASH unit for much of the last half decade. Thus, any competent and experienced depth that they can keep around, like Velasco, is beneficial for insurance purposes.
Desire to see Velasco in Pittsburgh next season aside, signing the veteran center will be no easy task. Even though he is coming off of an Achilles injury, the relatively young (29 years old in February) Velasco has started 27 games over the last two seasons. Experienced and capable of starting at the professional level to boot, the former Georgia Bulldog will likely garner interest from other teams on the free agent market.
Pittsburgh will be in a hellish mess this offseason when they try to become cap-compliant, and they will have plenty of decisions to make regarding which players they should keep.
If another team swoops in and offers Velasco a more lucrative deal than Pittsburgh can, then he could be inclined to depart. Furthermore, Velasco could leave the Steelers this spring if he does not want to ride the pine behind Pouncey as well.
I hope that Pittsburgh’s brass will try to ink a hopefully healthy Velasco during the upcoming offseason. Whether or not they will have the cap space or pull to do so will remain a large question until the free agency period begins.
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