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mesaSteeler
05-08-2009, 12:38 AM
Free to go, some Steelers prefer to stay
Friday, May 08, 2009
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09128/968639-66.stm
By Ed Bouchette

Linebacker Larry Foote's determination to leave the Steelers was unusual. Normally, players fight to stay with them.

That holds true for a number of Steelers as they enter the final year of their contracts looking for new ones.

"I'm just speaking from my knowledge of being around here and that this is a great place to be," said defensive end Brett Keisel. "You have great owners who care about you, a great family atmosphere here in the locker room, so it's a great place for a player like myself who was drafted here."

Like other teammates who have one year left on their contracts, Keisel prefers to sign an extension before the 2009 season and remain right where he is. That wasn't the case with Foote, who pushed his way out of the last year of his contract when the Steelers released him Monday.

The previous time the Steelers publicly acknowledged acceding to such a wish came in 1994, when they traded unhappy tight end Adrian Cooper to the Minnesota Vikings for draft picks in the third and sixth rounds. (Cooper, a stockbroker, went to federal prison in 2006 to serve more than six years for securities fraud.)

Unlike Cooper, Foote was not unhappy with his contract or with the Steelers but believed he would lose his starting job to Lawrence Timmons and wanted to start anew at age 29 somewhere else.

Foote had a year left on his contract at almost $2.9 million. The Steelers announced through a statement by Kevin Colbert that they released Foote in a salary cap move.

Foote's yearning to be free was among the motives players used as they fought for free agency in the 1980s. Good players stuck behind other good ones wanted to have the option of signing with another team so they could play regularly.

They were accorded that right when free agency became part of the collective agreement in 1993.

But while players fought bitterly for free agency, including a strike in 1987, many players today do not want to become free agents. The system may grant them that right, but it does not mean they must be happy when it happens.

Examples with the Steelers are many and include some of their biggest stars such as Alan Faneca, who expressed his displeasure publicly in 2007 when he and the Steelers could not come to terms on an extension. He signed last season as a free agent with the New York Jets when the Steelers made no contract offer. Others who left as reluctant free agents included Rod Woodson, Gary Anderson, Carnell Lake, Greg Lloyd and Plaxico Burress.

Before Faneca, Hines Ward held out at the beginning of training camp in 2005 when a contract extension was not yet done. Ward could have become a free agent in 2006 but did not want that. James Harrison wanted his new contract this year and did not want to wait to become free in 2010.

Few players have wanted to play out their contracts and become free, although some do leave, such as Nate Washington and Bryant McFadden this year. Washington and McFadden, though, might have accepted contract extensions last year to stay if they were offered at the right price. Guard Chris Kemoeatu re-signed with the Steelers this year after becoming a free agent, turning down a reportedly higher offer from the New York Jets.

Players cite security, familiarity and general happiness for reasons they want to stay with their current team.

"From my standpoint, if guys have an opportunity to sign before their final year, it's kind of job security," said Steelers tight end Heath Miller, who has one year left on his contract. "Football is such an unpredictable sport in some respects. Guys can have a career-ending injury or season-ending injury, so I think job security is something that's valuable in this sport.

"And in my case, certainly when you play for an organization like this, I can't see myself wanting to go anywhere else. I definitely hope it ends up good."

"It comes down to the basic necessity, security," said tackle Max Starks, who has his second one-year contract with the Steelers in two years and would like a long-term deal. "Most guys want that security of knowing where they're going to be the next couple of years. And nine times out of 10 the guys who usually want to stay before their contracts are up are happy with their team situation and want to be with their team." (Hey Maxi, then why don't you sign a long term deal? - mesa)

It's not just with the Steelers, either. Before he signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2002, linebacker James Farrior wanted to stay with the New York Jets.

"I didn't want to change things and go through the whole learning process again," said Farrior, the Jets' first-round draft pick in 1997. "It's like being a rookie all over again. I think that's the biggest thing, going to a different team, meeting different people, new friends, learning all the things everybody else goes through. If you like the routine you're in, you want to stay in that routine."

Yet Farrior's move "turned out great for me." His career thrived with the Steelers: two Super Bowl rings, two Pro Bowls, a big contract and captain of the NFL's No. 1 defense.

So, why don't many players want the free agency that was granted them back in 1993? Tunch Ilkin, the Steelers' union player representative and Pro Bowl right tackle during the fight for free agency two decades ago, said it's a misconception.

"It's not that nobody wants free agency," said Ilkin, a Steelers broadcaster. "You may not want to become a free agent yourself, but that fact there is free agency has driven up players' salaries.

"They're right: You play for a team long enough, you don't want to go anywhere, especially with the Steelers. Who would want to play anywhere else? But before free agency, there was no bargaining."

Ilkin understood Foote's desire to leave because "he feels the handwriting's on the wall." Ilkin cited his case when the Steelers drafted him in 1980 and talked about that of linebacker Mike Vrabel. Ilkin was drafted as a center -- and Mike Webster wasn't going anywhere soon. The Steelers released Ilkin but eventually he returned and became a Pro Bowl tackle.

The Steelers never could find a spot on their frontline defense for Vrabel, so he left in 2001 as a free agent and became an important part of New England's defense that won three Super Bowls.

Ilkin did note an important difference between becoming a free agent and almost a free agent. Players entering the final year of their contracts often talk about wanting an extension at "fair market value" even though others set that market when they went through free agency.

"Some guys want to find out what they're worth on the open market," Ilkin said. "Unfortunately, you still hear that from guys with a year left on their contracts, and they don't realize you can't get fair value with one year left."

Foote's release will provide the Steelers more opportunities to sign some players in their final years to contract extensions, and perhaps make someone happy that, in this free-agency era, did not become a free agent.
Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com.
First published on May 8, 2009 at 12:00 am

steelwall
05-08-2009, 12:58 AM
Got that right.... I feel very fortunate to be a Steelers fan when I read articles like this.

jev7452
05-08-2009, 03:09 AM
hopefully heath will be next to get his extension

Galax Steeler
05-08-2009, 03:52 AM
hopefully heath will be next to get his extension

I would feel alot better about this year if we could get him signed to an extension and hopefully that will get done soon.

steelwall
05-08-2009, 04:10 AM
IMO.. heath is the next big sign... I am about 95% sure they will do whatever is required to sign him. He is such a big part of our running/passing game it would be crazy not to.

I honesty believe he is the best TE in the NFL right now.... Better than Gonzales...

Steeldude
05-08-2009, 06:17 AM
keisel will be gone if he doesn't like the money the steelers offer. most of today's players are about money, not loyalty or love for the game.

steelballs
05-08-2009, 06:42 AM
IMO.. heath is the next big sign... I am about 95% sure they will do whatever is required to sign him. He is such a big part of our running/passing game it would be crazy not to.

I honesty believe he is the best TE in the NFL right now.... Better than Gonzales...

I can't argue with that.

Dino 6 Rings
05-08-2009, 07:31 AM
its easy really, if you want to win and be on a team that competes for a title every year, goes into each new season with the possibility of going to the playoffs and hasn't had back to back losing seasons in lord knows how long, You Stay with the Black and Gold.

If you want the cash, you leave.

Rings and titles or money.

Now for Foote, he's got 2 rings, so he's already achieved what most players in the NFL Never do, win a Title, so him leaving for cash and a possible starting job in Detroit, I don't blame him. But he also knows, deep in his heart, he'll never be back in the SB as long as he's a Lion.

Rowghani
05-08-2009, 08:08 AM
But he also knows, deep in his heart, he'll never be back in the SB as long as he's a Lion.

I know what you mean, but I think whats wonderful about the NFL is that as long as you can get a 9-7 record you have a chance to sneek in to the playoffs as a wild-card and as long as youre in you have a shot at a ring (Steelers acouple of years ago and Cards being one drive away from a ring).

stlrtruck
05-08-2009, 08:51 AM
That's because there's football and then there is the STEELERS WAY OF FOOTBALL

Godfather
05-08-2009, 10:02 AM
Now for Foote, he's got 2 rings, so he's already achieved what most players in the NFL Never do, win a Title, so him leaving for cash and a possible starting job in Detroit, I don't blame him. But he also knows, deep in his heart, he'll never be back in the SB as long as he's a Lion.

And in Foote's case, the Lions are his hometown team. That has to count for something too.

I'd take less money and leave a contender to play for the Steelers (of course the Steelers are also a contender but I'd have done the same thing in the mid to late 1980s.)

steelreserve
05-08-2009, 11:23 AM
its easy really, if you want to win and be on a team that competes for a title every year, goes into each new season with the possibility of going to the playoffs and hasn't had back to back losing seasons in lord knows how long, You Stay with the Black and Gold.

If you want the cash, you leave.

Well, not always. In all fairness, we're right up against the salary cap every year, which means we're paying out the same amount of money as everyone else, if not more. So SOMEBODY has to be getting paid well with the Steelers. It's more like we don't splurge on non-essential players, because (with the apparent exception of mediocre left tackles) we don't have enough money left over to do that anyway.

It does seem like we give out one or two big contracts a year. Guys like Polamalu, Big Ben, Hampton, Kiesel, Ward, Taylor and Harrison are the core of the team and they get paid quite a bit.

By the time you get to the fringe starters like Washington, Foote or McFadden, it starts getting more difficult to Tetris all their salaries in under the cap, especially if they want raises. So yeah, chances are some other team's going to have a bigger slot.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, the message the Steelers have is pretty clear: Make yourself indispensable, and you'll get paid a ton of money. If not, you have to settle for what's left. Seems like a smart way of running the team. It works a lot better than panicking every time someone's contract is up and giving him $6 million a year no matter whether he's worth it or not. Why would we pay big money to a guy like Foote? It just means we'd have to take it away from someone better, which probably won't work.

AllD
05-08-2009, 02:16 PM
Foote went to Detroit for less money, however that is saying the Steelers weren't going to release him anyway if he did not restructure. Only Foote and the FA know the details.

Rek
05-08-2009, 02:55 PM
hopefully heath will be next to get his extension

I'm hoping for Parker personally as well, but sadly, it may not happen...:noidea:

aclark99
05-08-2009, 03:00 PM
what blows my mind payers leave the burgh as a star and then flop with their new teams - joey porter, yancey thigpen, neil o'donnell, carnell lake, greg lloyd, alan faneca, leon searcy etc. you would think that new players such as mcfadden, foote and washington would see this trend. money is everything but having a long career with wnning a couple of super bowls isn't all that bad.

steelreserve
05-08-2009, 03:18 PM
I'm hoping for Parker personally as well, but sadly, it may not happen...:noidea:

aaahhhhh... is my week or two of not bitching about Parker over yet?

Rek
05-08-2009, 03:51 PM
aaahhhhh... is my week or two of not bitching about Parker over yet?

LOL Hang in there. I want to get some more Parker love flowing, then you can go to town. :thumbsup:

FSUBoo
05-10-2009, 12:37 AM
I won't go as far as saying Heath is the best tight end in football, even though I think he is. But I will say he is the most COMPLETE TE in Football.

Rek
05-10-2009, 11:05 AM
I won't go as far as saying Heath is the best tight end in football, even though I think he is. But I will say he is the most COMPLETE TE in Football.

One of the best blocking tight ends in the game. That boy got them there farm boy muscles.