The Pittsburgh Steelers are going to have some serious financial decisions to make this off-season. They have 25 total free agents and no money to spend on them. So in order to cook the books to try and make all this work everyone can’t come back.
Being over the cap by better than $10 million with that many players not under contract, along with the potential of free agency and the NFL draft, you understand that there are going to have to be some veteran players who aren’t quite going to make the cut. I know lots of fans get pretty bent out of shape when their favorite players aren’t re-signed, but when a team like the Steelers have committed so much money to a select number of players, the pool of resources to go around for those supporting players is limited.
Looking at who is a free agent for the upcoming season, here is what I would do as far as re-signing, tendering, or simply letting them go.
RESTRICTED/ECLUSIVE RIGHTS(7) RB Baron Batch, DT Steve McClendon, CB DeMarcus Van Dyke, LB Stevenson Sylvester, WR Emmanuel Sanders, RB Isaac Redman, RB Jonathan Dwyer
Of the restricted/exclusive rights group, I would tender McClendon, Sanders, Redman and Dwyer to minimum offers and let the rest walk. I can’t see anyone trying to steal any of those players from the roster, but if the front office believed a guy like Redman or Sanders might be a potential target of another team, a mid-level tender and the draft pick that goes along with it should keep them at bay.
UNRESTRICTED (18) S Will Allen, QB Charlie Batch, WR Plaxico Burress, LB Larry Foote, OG Ramon Foster, DT Casey Hampton, LB Brandon Johnson, FB David Johnson, QB Byron Leftwich, OG Doug Legursky, CB Justin King, CB Keenan Lewis, RB Rashard Mendenhall, S Ryan Mundy, TE Leonard Pope, OT Max Starks, WR Mike Wallace, LS Greg Warren
This is a tough group to look at, and to be quite honest, I would make deep cuts here.In fact rather than go over who I would cut, I think it would be more simple to talk about who I would keep. On that list I can see the Steelers offering Leftwich a vet minimum contract just to maintain a veteran presence on the depth chart, and allow Bath to accept some sort of coaching role on the team. Then the Steelers would be able to draft a young quarterback to groom behind quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The rest would shake out like this. I would keep Foster and Legursky to keep depth on the offensive line, Pope at tight end as a veteran presence who knows the system, and Warren at long snapper for the sake of consistency. Other than those players, I would not re-sign any of the other free agents on the list above. The remaining players are either going to cost too much, or offer too little to keep on the roster. I realize it’s hard to think about guys like Hampton, Mendenhall, Starks, and Wallace not being around, but this team was down this year and you don’t pay big contracts out to players that didn’t make this team better, or that the front office thinks can’t make this team better in the future.
It’s time for the Steelers to rebuild a little and re-load a lot. 2013 is going to be a huge year for this franchise, and if they handle the off-season correctly, it could be huge in a very positive way.