Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Steelers Sit Calmly at the Eye of the Free Agent Storm

Ed Bouchette, joined the Fan Morning Show on Tuesday to preview the opening of NFL Free Agency. There wasn't much to preview regarding the Steelers specifically as they rarely do more than dip their toes into the free agent pool. This year is no different so far. 

Bouchette said he doesn’t see the Steelers going after free agents this year, unless it is players that other teams wouldn’t want in order to fill depth. With limited cap space, the Steelers will be hurting at tight end during the four-game suspension of Weslye Saunders.

Bouchette, @EdBouchette on Twitter, doesn’t expect another team to sign Mike Wallace away from the Steelers. As this Blog has said more than once, whomever would look to do so would not only be forfeiting a large contract, but they would also sacrifice a first round draft pick. What percentage does Bouchette give Wallace coming back? "I'd guess 80%" Now, where have I heard that before...?

Also as was said within this Blog, teams who may have interest in Wallace probably saw some stock drop considering the second half of his 2011 season was pedestrian at best. Bouchette said that those teams “have video tape of the same second half of the season that we saw.” 

Well said, Ed...

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It's well known that the Steelers could use help at inside linebacker. Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower would be an ideal candidate, and Boston College standout Luke Kuechly would be a possibility. 

More depth in the secondary would also be good. Safety is key as we all saw what happened in Denver when Ryan Clark was inactive. As it is, next year could his last year in a Steelers uniform. A possibility as his heir apparent is Trent Robinson. 

Trent Robinson can cover well and mirrors tight ends well. He trusts his footwork and makes good plays because of it. He can turn and run with wideouts and has the speed to stay with them. He has the body control to turn when running with a wideout and make an athletic play on the ball. Robinson is good in run support. He is 5'10" and weighs 195 pounds. He runs a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash at the combine. He also bench pressed 15 reps of 225 pounds, had a 35 inch vertical jump and a 10'5 broad jump. Robinson had 229 tackles, 12 pass break-ups and nine interceptions in 46 career games at free safety at Michigan State.

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The Steelers are the Steelers and will probably once again be the team to beat in the AFC by the time the playoffs roll around, especially with the free agent losses suffered by the rest of the AFC North, but they enter the season with far more uncertainty than in the past. One of those is backup quarterback. 

If there is a free agent the Steelers have their eye on, it would be Byron Leftwich. Leftwich can be had for vet minimum to $1.2 million. Then, if Leftwich were to get injured again, there is still a good chance Charlie Batch could be back as well. 

But, if none of that floats your boat, Tomlin and Colbert did have dinner with Michigan St. quarterback Kirk Cousins. 

Cousin measured in at the NFL Combine at 6' 2 1/2" and weighed 214 pounds. He is considered the 5th or 6th best quarterback in the draft this year. He has a quick release and good fundamentals from playing in a pro-style offense in college. 

Could he be a project to be considered as eventual backup to Ben? If he falls to the 5th or even 6th round, it's a possibility.

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Source: CBA: (1) Right of First Refusal Only (2) : one year Player Contract with Paragraph 5 Salary of at least $1,200,000 

That being said, the Steelers aren't done making monetary moves. They're salary cap compliant, about $10.5 million under, but they've tendered all the restricted free agents and at least two unrestricted free agents, Jerricho Cotchery and William Gay, have expressed interest in wanting to come back. 

They do have the money for Wallace now, a deal that will be reminiscent of the Marquis Colston and Vincent Jackson deals. I'm still of the mind that no team comes knocking, but the deadline for a team to submit an offer to a RFA is April 20.