|by Jason and Jayden|
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot of free agents to consider this offseason in preparation for their 2014 Training Camp and season. There are 21 names that need to be considered as we move toward the new NFL year.
Only a few, however, are going to be brought back because of various reasons. Whether because of Salary Cap restraints, contract demands or simply just a lack need, only a handful of them should be in a Steelers uniform next season.
On Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette gave his estimation of who may and may not be returning. - http://tinyurl.com/ke8t5bt
If It Ain't Steel lists our views on who will, who should and who won't, and then will discuss briefly the ones signed to Reserve/Futures contracts. So, without further ado:
WR Emmanuel Sanders - Manny is going to be considered one of the top unrestricted free agent wide receivers this offseason. That being the case, he likely will be playing elsewhere in 2014. Basically, consider him gone and look forward to the 2015 compensatory draft pick the Steelers will get for him.
LB Jason Worilds - This is a must. No matter how the LaMarr Woodley situation unfolds, the Steelers need to work hard at re-signing Worilds. We wrote in a previous piece how he will certainly receive offers from other teams and what the Steelers may need to do. The Steelers are bereft of depth at outside linebacker even with Jarvis Jones, who still needs time to maturate and improve.
WR Jerricho Cotchery - Cotch led the Steelers in 2013 in YAC and was the touchdown receptions leader. If Manny really is gone, re-signing Cotchery is imperative, possibly to a contract similar to his 2012 (2-year) deal. Cotch is money in the red zone and can be a coach on the field for Markus Wheaton and either Justin Brown or another draft pick. Cotch is still a solid No. 3 receiver for at least another year or two.
RB Jonathan Dwyer - All I hear when Dwyer carries the ball is "boom, boom, boom" as he bowls over defenders. Dwyer works hard now. He is always excited to play could likely be gotten for the minimum.
C/G Fernando Velasco - Velasco will be in rehab for his Achilles for a while. Hopefully, he is willing to play for veteran minimum next season, because the Steelers need to bring him back to either serve as backup to center Maurkice Pouncey, or even as starting center with Pouncey moving to guard.
FS Ryan Clark - “I’m playing,” RC25 said Sunday. “Where that’s going to be I’m not sure." Regarding for how much, he said the vet minimum, which will be $955,000 for a player of his 10+ years, isn't what he wants. "I think I’m worth more than that, and if they decide that I’m not then you have to understand that and you have to move on. I respect the business.” Well, the business side dictates that RC25 won't exactly be in high demand during free agency, and likely won't be re-signed until very late in the offseason. Would he be willing to take the vet minimum then? I personally love RC25, but he had the worst tackling season of his career and is likely going to be elsewhere next season. Or on tv. - http://tinyurl.com/n6cb82m
DE Brett Keisel - Because of his age and the miles the Diesel has hauled, Keisel isn't likely to receive attention during free agency. If the Steelers want him back, it will be in more of a mentor role. He would have to be signed for the vet minimum or maybe for a deal similar to what Larry Foote was signed for last year. That is unlikely, though, because we can't have another Aaron Smith problem, either.
DE Ziggy Hood - With Ziggy still being fairly young, and that he is a former first-round draft pick, he could draw attention in free agency. A 4-3 defensive team might consider him at defensive tackle, but we honestly believe the Steelers, because of their lack of depth on the defensive line, will try to bring him back for both defensive end and nose tackle positions. The money would have to work, though.
NT/DE Al Woods - We believe Woods will be back. The Steelers have a lot of time invested in him and, since he won't likely be in high demand in free agency, they should easily be able to get him back under contract for next season.
S Will Allen - We believe Allen should be back. He came back to the Steelers after being released by the Dallas Cowboys. The team has to get younger on defense, but he outplayed Shamarko Thomas and proved his worth. Thomas is the future and will get better, so 2014 might finally be it for one of Mike Tomlin's guys, but he should get that much.
LS Greg Warren - As we've said before, Warren makes more plays than you realize and shows no signs of slowing down. The Steelers should have no problem signing him to another one-year qualifying contract.
T/G Guy Whimper - We killed Whimper at the start of the preseason and season, but he got better. That said, the Steelers will be in no hurry to re-sign Whimper. Another vet minimum deal if that. But likely he'll go out with a...
C/G Cody Wallace - Wallace should get a camp invite and an opportunity to compete for a backup role.
RB LaRod Stephens-Howling - With Le'Veo Bell, Dwyer, and Will Johnson, the Steelers do lack some running back depth, but they don't either need to be in a hurry to re-sign LASH who is still rehabbing his knee. Time will tell on this one because he is versatile when healthy.
TE David Johnson - The best DJ can hope for is a training camp invite. Mediocre blocker and pass catcher. We wouldn't miss him.
RB Felix Jones - Thanks, Felix.
WR Plaxico Burress - No.
P Matt McBriar - The Steelers will want a veteran punter in camp, so maybe.
TE Michael Palmer - As The Doctor would say, "Geronimo!"
LB Stevenson Sylvester - Umm...no.
LB Jamaal Westerman - Actually has a chance to be among the outside linebacker bodies in Camp. But it's doubtful he makes it out of it.
C/G Eric Olsen - Who?
The Steelers sign seven players to reserve/futures contracts on Tuesday: RB Alvester Alexander, WR Justin Brown, G Bryant Browning, G Chris Hubbard, WR Kashif Moore, S Ross Ventrone and LB Kion Wilson.
All seven signees to reserve/futures contracts ended the season on Steelers practice squad and at least two - Alexander and Brown - have a chance to be at least there again in 2014.
UPDATE: The Steelers have signed UDFA punter Brad Wing out of LSU. He was an All-American in his freshman year and one of the best in college football three years in a row. He even allowed just 73 yards on punt returns the entire 2011 season. However, he wasn't selected in the 2013 NFL Draft due to off-the-field problems.
Steelers also signed long snapper Bryce Davis out of Central Oklahoma.
As noted above, bot McBriar and Warren are free agents.