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Old 02-13-2010, 09:36 PM   #1
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Default Steelers Have Two Weeks to Decide Who to Franchise

Steelers Have Two Weeks to Decide Who to Franchise


2/13/2010 9:27 AM ET By JJ Cooper

Casey Hampton may not want to be franchised, but it sure sounds like he needs to get comfortable with the idea.

In his pre-free agency press conference, Steelers player personnel director Kevin Colbert reiterated what you would expect him to say--he's not going to rule out using a franchise tag on any of the three Steelers starters who could be headed to free agency.

That means Jeff Reed, Ryan Clark or Hampton could be tagged by the Feb. 25 deadline. In Clark's case it's unlikely that the Steelers would want to spend more than $6 million for one year of a solid but unspectacular safety, but in Hampton's case the $7 million for one year of a Pro Bowl nose tackle may seem quite reasonable. Less than $3 million for Reed also may seem like a small price to pay to keep a kicker who has shown he understands how to kick at Heinz Field.

Colbert made it sound like he'd like to avoid using the tag, but that he wouldn't hesitate if necessary.

"Our stance on the tag is that while we don't like to use (it), we're never going to say that we're not going to use something that is collectively bargained as a tool in this process," Colbert said.

In the case of Hampton it may make more sense to tag him than any other option. The Steelers' backup plan is to rely on Chris Hoke and draft a backup to eventually start, but that's not an ideal solution for a team that thinks they could compete for a Super Bowl next season. And on the other hand, signing Hampton to a long-term deal will likely involve paying Hampton more for what he has accomplished than what he will accomplish in the future.

The biggest news the Steelers' fans could hear over the next three weeks may be a new deal with Clark. While $6 million-plus seems quite steep for a complimentary safety, Pittsburgh has no valid options to replace Clark on the current roster. And as Troy Polamalu, Chris Hope and others have shown in the past, it's hard to start at safety as a rookie in Dick LeBeau's defense.
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