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03-15-2008, 11:55 PM
Steelers flexible with personnel decisions
By John Harris
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, March 16, 2008

Alan Faneca was 31 and seeking his third contract with the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent. Two weeks ago, Faneca signed a landmark deal with the New York Jets. Joey Porter was approaching 30 and coming off two minor knee surgeries, not to mention being due a $1 million roster bonus entering the final year of his contract. Soon after the Steelers released him last March, Porter signed a four-year deal with Miami.

James Farrior turned 33 in January and is the Steelers' second-oldest player. He has one year remaining on his third contract and is coming off his best season since his Pro Bowl campaign in 2004. He has one year remaining on his current deal and is firmly entrenched at inside linebacker.

While it's true the Steelers have an unwritten rule about not keeping some of their key veterans who are 30 and older, it's a rule that should be judged on a case-by-case basis.

"Our philosophy is we're always going to try to keep our own players," Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert said. "We always know where the (salary) cap is, and we are aware of what we can and can't do."

For every Clark Haggans, a 31-year-old linebacker the Steelers allowed to become a free agent after the 2007 season, there's an Aaron Smith -- a defensive end who signed a $24.5 million extension last year prior to his 31st birthday.

After winning Super Bowl XL, the Steelers didn't re-sign veteran defensive lineman Kimo von Oelhoffen, who was 35. Another key veteran, running back Jerome Bettis, retired after the Super Bowl at 33.

Bettis was replaced by Willie Parker, who was voted to the past two Pro Bowls. Brett Keisel stepped in for von Oelhoffen at right defensive end. James Harrison replaced Porter at right outside linebacker and was voted the team's most valuable player.

"I don't necessarily agree that the Steelers don't want to keep older players," said agent Kenneth Zuckerman, who represents Steelers left tackle Marvel Smith. "I think they've done such a great job in the draft that they've been able to reload. If you bring somebody in new, someone has to go.

"(Porter) went out and they had a younger guy at a much cheaper salary that was able to produce at that level. They've kept Hines Ward (who turned 32 on March 8 and has two years remaining on his third contract). They kept Jerome Bettis. They gave Aaron Smith a third deal."

What's good for Farrior obviously wasn't good for Faneca or Porter, who wanted to finish their careers with the Steelers but left for big dollars.

Farrior's contract was restructured to be more team-friendly, with a lower salary cap number in his final year.

Compare Farrior's situation with Porter, who was scheduled to have the second-highest cap number on the team when he was released. Or with Harrison, who turns 30 in May and has an extremely team-friendly contract: $1.5 million in 2008 and $1.7 million in 2009.

"I didn't get a contract, but at the same time I don't feel like they had enough money to spend on me," Porter told the Tribune-Review after his release. "It was about the Steelers coming to a reasonable number that they felt like giving me, and was I willing to take it."

Farrior's situation is different. Nearing the end of his career, he's willing to play for less money to remain with the Steelers.

The Steelers' working environment is unique in the NFL. Not only is the team successful on the field, but in an era when players are often released to create salary cap space, some players have an opportunity to finish their careers in Pittsburgh.

"The Steelers put in the number of years on a contract that they reasonably expect a guy can play. Rarely do you see them eat three years of a contract because a guy got too old," said Pittsburgh-based agent Ralph Cindrich, who represents Farrior.

"In the case of a guy like Farrior, instead of pumping up the last year (of his contract) like a lot of agents do to get a high average, we actually dropped James' (salary) last year some. So they're saying, 'We had good play out of him;' in fact, the Steelers are calling last season maybe his second-best year with them. They look at his cap number and see it went down from the previous season."

Simply put, Farrior wanted to stay with the Steelers. So he made his contract more attractive to the team. Farrior led the Steelers in tackles last season, but how many other talented players are willing to accept less money to stay?

"That was one of the reasons why James made the decision when he was in the last year of his contract," Cindrich said. "It's very difficult to find in the NFL a home where you're getting paid well, you wake up in the morning and you want to go to work and want to be with your teammates. In the long run, the dollars amount to more when you're with that type of organization versus playing five years and taking a hit in free agency trying to get the big bucks, but not playing through the contract."

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/s_557469.html

BettisFan
03-16-2008, 12:00 AM
Wow thats an eye opener ... sorta
Its understandable to let older guys go and stay young and it has worked for us, but like with Bettis we stuck it out with him (best ever) so there are some players we need to keep when old. Besides that great way to run an organization.

Galax Steeler
03-16-2008, 06:33 AM
If that article holds true then we will be getting rid of alot of players in the next 2-3 years.

GBMelBlount
03-16-2008, 08:35 AM
"I don't necessarily agree that the Steelers don't want to keep older players," said agent Kenneth Zuckerman, who represents Steelers left tackle Marvel Smith. "I think they've done such a great job in the draft that they've been able to reload. If you bring somebody in new, someone has to go."

We certainly have a had a few gems in the early rounds the last few years, but certainly more than our share of mid/late round duds. It is harder to let your aging players go if your new guys aren't developing or performing as expected.

Dino 6 Rings
03-16-2008, 09:05 AM
I still wish they'd make a "retire a steelers" deal with Haggans.

lilyoder6
03-16-2008, 10:44 AM
i liked the idea that faneca wanted to stay with the steelers and retire as a steelers but wouldn't accept 1 mill less than he was getting from the jets

19ward86
03-16-2008, 03:14 PM
Kind of stated what most in depth fans already knew.

Dylan
03-16-2008, 03:27 PM
I still wish they'd make a "retire a steelers" deal with Haggans.

sorry man have to disagree, hes a good player but with woodley emerging and showing off his explosivness i rather have him.

tony hipchest
03-16-2008, 06:32 PM
like farrior, casey hampton has a beautifully structured deal. his cap # actually drops this year and next. usually with pro bowl players like him, their contract increases evey year.

paw-n-maul-u
03-16-2008, 07:20 PM
brilliant article


The steelers let go players that either arent good ... or are good, but too expensive, and can sustain with the cheaper talent behind them .... and sometimes there are older guys that are important like A. Smith, who they give money too.


so THATS how it works. ... he made it seem so simple that how come every team doesn't have as much success as the steelers


BUMP

BettisFan
03-16-2008, 07:25 PM
Other teams should try this, Its so crazy... IT JUST MIGHT WORK!

Galax Steeler
03-17-2008, 03:33 AM
sorry man have to disagree, hes a good player but with woodley emerging and showing off his explosivness i rather have him.

I have to agree bring on the wood.:tt02:

vasteeler
03-17-2008, 11:02 AM
i liked the idea that faneca wanted to stay with the steelers and retire as a steelers but wouldn't accept 1 mill less than he was getting from the jets

did he really sign with the jets for a million more than we were willing to pay him,if true than he didnt want to retire a steeler to bad