by Ed Bouchette
A primer on #Steelers 3 UFAs at defensive end and the difficult decisions they must make at a thin position.
Brett Keisel has the best resume and played the best of the bunch last season. But he will turn 36 on Sept. 19. Do you offer him a one-year deal at the veteran minimum, a Charlie Batch-like contract known as the veteran “minimum salary benefit.’’ As such, Keisel could receive $955,000 in salary but count only as much as a second-year player’s minimum salary of $570,000 under the salary cap. The team also could pay him a bonus of no more than $65,000 under that benefit, but his cap hit would rise to $635,000 if they did, and Keisel would earn a total of $1.09 million.
Ziggy Hood, in his fifth season with the Steelers, earned a $715,000 salary last season and counted $2,990,860 against their cap, according to sportrac.com. Al Woods counted $630,000 in salary and cap hit.
Woods began his NFL career as a fourth-round draft choice by the new Orleans Saints in 2010 from LSU. He has bounced around since then, never sticking with the Saints but playing for Tampa Bay in 2010, the Steelers and then Seattle in 2011 and finally the Steelers the past two seasons. He played all 16 games last season with two starts and two sacks.
Ziggy Hood, of course, was their first-round draft choice in 2009 who has not lived up to their expectations. But he was a starter since 2010 before he lost that job to Heyward last season, when his starts dipped to seven but he played in all 16 games with three sacks.
Because of his experience and his resume as a first-round pick, I would expect Hood to attract more interest in free agency than Woods. I would not expect the Steelers to make Hood an offer until perhaps he hits free agency, and then only if he receives no big offers elsewhere.
Woods is a more intriguing prospect. If you believe in the ratings of Pro Football Focus, that site gave Hood its lowest overall rating of any of their defensive players – minus 14.0; the lowest of any of their defenders against the run – minus 7.5, and their lowest rating of any of their players in pass rush – minus 10.6.
Woods, who played in roughly one-third of the plays as Hood, came in at 0.9, plus 2.6 and minus 0.8 on those three ratings.
Make your choice. Try to sign one, two or ignore them all?