View Full Version : Steelers will not be rushing into free agency

03-04-2010, 05:58 AM

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Steelers will not be rushing into free agency

By Scott Brown
Thursday, March 4, 2010

Director of football operations Kevin Colbert said it will "be business as usual" for the Steelers when the new NFL year starts Friday.

That means the Steelers will almost certainly stay on the sideline during the first week of free agency as others court the marquee players that hit the open market tomorrow at 12:01 a.m.

History shows that the Steelers eschew the bidding wars that take place in early March. It offers no such guide for the rest of the NFL once the new signing period starts.

With no collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the players and owners, the NFL will go to an uncapped year for the first time since unfettered free agency started in 1993. That means teams are free to spend as much as they want on player salaries.

"Uncharted waters," San Francisco 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan said.

"It's an unknown," added Colbert.

Yet there isn't expected to be a dramatic change in free agency and the possible resulting loss of league parity because of other mechanisms that kick in with no CBA in place.

The most significant new provision pushes from four to six the minimum number of seasons a player has to accrue before becoming an unrestricted free agent. This has thinned the ranks of unrestricted free agents considerably.

There is also the so-called "final eight plan."

It limits the number of free agents teams that made it to the divisional round of the 2009 playoffs can sign. Those that advanced to their conference championship game are even more restricted under this plan.

If those provisions keep free agency from becoming a free for all, the current labor situation could also protect against an imbalance in team spending.

The possibility of a lockout in 2011 may make owners think twice about spending freely this year. Teams also have to be mindful that whatever contracts are crafted this year may be subject to the rules of the new CBA whenever that comes.

"In the long-term, I expect us to have a salary cap, and this year will kind of be a one-year situation that we'll get through," Steelers president Art Rooney II said recently.

Agent Brian Overstreet agreed, adding that he doesn't expect free agency to play out differently than it has in past years.

"I think the teams that spend are going to spend like normal," Overstreet said. "And I think the conservative teams, like Pittsburgh, are going to stay conservative. Some teams are not going to be able to resist the temptation of trying to add a piece that they normally wouldn't be able to add because of salary-cap implications in an attempt to win it all this year."

Some of those teams could target restricted free agents more than they have in past years.

Because of the new rules, there are more than 200 restricted free agents this year. Among the marquee players are Denver Broncos linebacker Elvis Dumervil, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin, Houston Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans and San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson.

What hasn't changed is that signing a coveted restricted free agent will likely cost a team at least a first-round pick.

The Steelers, for example, would get a first-round draft pick if starting right tackle Willie Colon signs with another team. They also have the right to match any offer made to the fourth-year veteran.

"I believe there is going to be that much more contemplation," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said of teams pursuing restricted free agents. "Who actually pulls the trigger will be very interesting."

What will factor into such a decision is this year's NFL Draft. It is widely considered a strong one, making this the kind of year in which teams want to stockpile picks.

"I don't know if teams are going to be so forthcoming in giving up draft picks because I think everybody understands how valuable they are," Texans general manager Rick Smith said.

The Steelers' philosophy is to build through the draft, keep their key players from hitting the open market and add complementary pieces via free agency.

Their big move in free agency came last week, when they signed nose tackle Casey Hampton to a three-year, $21.3 million contract.

The Steelers also used a franchise tag on Jeff Reed the move all but guarantees them exclusive negotiating rights with the veteran kicker and they figure to be quiet during the shopping rush that characterizes the start of free agency.

"We're going to try to do things the way we always have," Colbert said. "How that unfolds, I hope, is successful for us."

Final eight plan

Teams that made the divisional round of the 2009 playoffs will have limitations when the free-agent signing period starts Friday. Here is what the limitations are:

Saints, Colts, Vikings and Jets: They are only allowed to sign the number of unrestricted free agents that they lose.

Cowboys, Cardinals, Ravens and Chargers: They are allowed to sign a pair of unrestricted free agents to contacts of no more than $5.5 and $3.7 in their first year. They can then only sign as many unrestricted free agents as they lose.

Help wanted

NFL free agency begins Friday. Here's a look at the Steelers' positional needs and some of the top available unrestricted free agents:

QUARTERBACK The Steelers are set with Ben Roethlisberger and Dennis Dixon. They're likely to re-sign Charlie Batch, an unrestricted free agent. Who's available: David Carr, Rex Grossman and Chris Redman.

RUNNING BACK Willie Parker is an unrestricted free agent and probably won't return. The Steelers could be in the market for a backup. Who's available: Chester Taylor, Leon Washington and Kevin Faulk.

WIDE RECEIVER This isn't a position of need for the Steelers. Who's available: Terrell Owens, Antonio Bryant and Kevin Walter.

TIGHT END The Steelers would prefer to draft a tight end. Who's available: Ben Watson, Alge Crumpler and Randy McMichael.

CENTER Starter Justin Hartwig was signed as a free agent two years ago. Who's available: Casey Rabach, Bryan Pittman and Kevin Mawae.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE This is a position the Steelers usually address in the draft. Who's available: Chad Clifton, Mike Gandy and Cornell Green.

GUARD Kraig Urbik, who didn't play as a rookie, was a third-round pick in 2009 draft. Who's available: Rex Hadnot, Chester Pitts and Bobbie Williams.

DEFENSIVE END The Steelers have two unrestricted free agents, Travis Kirschke and Nick Eason. Who's available: Julius Peppers, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Derrick Burgess.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE Re-signing Casey Hampton was a must. Who's available: Tank Johnson, Bryan Robinson and Jason Ferguson.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER Steelers lack depth at this position. Who's available: Scott Fujita, Cato June and Pisa Tinoisamoa.

INSIDE LINEBACKER James Farrior turned 35 in January. Who's available: Karlos Dansby, Gary Brackett and Larry Foote.

CORNERBACK Steelers want to look at their young cornerbacks. Who's available: Dunta Robinson, Leigh Bodden and Deshea Townsend.

SAFETY A lot depends on whether the Steelers re-sign unrestricted free agent Ryan Clark. Who's available: Darren Sharper, Sean Jones and Tyrone Carter.

KICKER Steelers designated Jeff Reed as their franchise player. Who's available: Neil Rackers, Stephen Gostkowski and Shayne Graham.

PUNTER Daniel Sepulveda is a restricted free agent. Who's available: Matt Turk, Hunter Smith and Mitch Berger.

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

("Steelers will not be rushing into free agency", and in other news at dawn this morning, the sun rose in the east. - mesa)

03-04-2010, 06:19 AM
Nothing new here, we are never big players. Question, who was our last BIG free agent signing? I would have to say James Farrior, but was he that big of a grab at that time?

OOOOOOOOOOOOH, Mitch Berger is available, pretty, pretty pretty please

03-04-2010, 08:15 AM
Nice article. I'm thinking Ryan Moats through free agency and a power back in the draft.

03-04-2010, 09:33 AM
farrior was a big grab at the time. he was a 1st round pick and the best player on a bad jets team. i remember being stunned that the jets let him walk.

03-04-2010, 10:00 AM
Nobody there, that is a realistic option, really excites me ( there is about as much chance of the Steelers signing Julius Peppers as of the Lions and Browns meeting in the Super Bowl this year). But, if he has anything left in the tank, I have to say Kevin Faulk is the type of player who can do things that make an offense better.He is not necessarily great at anything, but he does a lot very well. He is a good receiver, blocker and decent runner. Of course, he will probably want too much money, but we all know every veteran will sign for the league minimum to play for the Steelers. Well, at least that is what I keep reading here.:wink02:

03-04-2010, 10:49 AM
The last two free agents we've picked up that have been valuable to the team are James Farrior and Mewelde Moore. Everybody else we've signed has been signed for depth, although Sean Mahan was one of those rare instances in which we signed somebody to start for us and they failed.

03-04-2010, 11:16 AM
The last two free agents we've picked up that have been valuable to the team are James Farrior and Mewelde Moore. Everybody else we've signed has been signed for depth, although Sean Mahan was one of those rare instances in which we signed somebody to start for us and they failed.

Ryan Clark? Charlie Batch? Jeff Hartings?

03-04-2010, 05:23 PM
In other news, the Patriots suck and Tom Brady is gay

03-04-2010, 05:32 PM
I know this wouldn't happen for money reasons, but Karlos Dansby would fit in well on this defense in place of Farrior.