Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Steelers Sign Free Agent S Mike Mitchell; Latest On Salary Cap

UPDATED: 3/12/14
After two seasons of being in rarely-traveled waters, the Pittsburgh Steelers took measures to counter that...by going into rarely-traveled waters.

On the first day of free agency, the Steelers unexpectedly dove into the free agent pool and signed former Oakland Raiders and Carolina Panthers safety, Mike Mitchell. 

The 6'1", 216-pound Mitchell, 26, was drafted by the Raiders in 2009 and spent his first four seasons in Oakland. He saw his best season in 2013, though, after signing a one-year deal with the Panthers. A first-time starter, Mitchell recorded 72 tackles, 10 passes defenses, four interceptions and two forced fumbles in 13 starts (15 games total) on the NFL's No. 2 defense.

This is a day after the Steelers announced other transactions affecting their secondary as cornerback Ike Taylor accepted a pay cut to stay with the Steelers. A cut from his original $7 million salary to $2.75 million, which saves the team $4.25 million in Salary Cap room.

Taylor's Cap hit was lowered to $7.692 million, down from $11.942 million. Meaning the Steelers started the day at approximately $7.3 million under the Cap.

Also on Monday, outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley was released with a June 1st designation. Officially released Tuesday, Woodley is now free to sign with another team, but the Steelers won't benefit from the $8 million Cap savings until June 2nd. He also carries a $5.59 million dead money hit this year and $8.58 million in 2015.

The aforementioned amount made it possible to sign Mitchell. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the "Steelers gave former Panthers S Mike Mitchell a five-year, $25 million deal, per source." If It Ain't Steel is expecting $7.5-$10 million guaranteed. UPDATE: Per ESPN's David Todd, it carried a $5.25 million with a $4.75 million signing bonus prorated over five years. He will count $2.2 million against the Cap this year.

Mitchell's receiving what basically can be considered a starter's contract means that he will replace free safety Ryan Clark in the Steelers secondary.

He will replace RC25 in more ways than one: he's a hard-hitting player who can play both safety positions and is adept at getting to the quarterback. According to Pro Football Focus, he is "one of the best blitzing safeties in the league, generating 11 pressures and four sacks on just 23 pass rushes.”

Mitchell was ranked as PFF's 10th best FA safety on the market. In their ranking they also speak on his shortcomings in writing that he has "major questions against the run. No safety missed more tackles than his 18.” - https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2014/02/21/ranking-the-2014-free-agents-safeties/

Most of that can be chalked up to aggression, however, as Mitchell is known to look for the big hit.

Despite his four interceptions, he isn't a great cover guy. Good, but not great. His 4.39/40 speed does help, however.

Still, Troy Polamalu seems to be the Steelers better safety in coverage, therefore. Since defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau likes to use his safeties interchangeably, don't expect a move from strong safety to FS for Polamalu. Though it will allow him to step outside the box (no pun intended), as he had the most snaps among safeties in the box at 79.8%.

His addition, plus the presence of recently re-signed Will Allen and 2nd-year man Shamarko Thomas takes away safety as a position of need in the draft.

~

TIDBITS: Steelers finally announce the re-signing of safety Will Allen. The Steelers also announced the signing of C/G Cody Wallace to a three-year contract, which likely sounds the death knell of C/G Fernando Velasco, and of 10-year veteran Long Snapper Greg Warren. Term have to be disclosed.

~

Defensive end Al Woods will visit the Tennessee Titans on Wednesday.UPDATED: Per Ed Bouchette, Woods has signed with the Titans.

~

Don't assume the Steelers are done for now, though. If the Steelers stay in the free agent waters, their next move might be a backstroke to a linebacker.