Monday, March 17, 2014

Will Recent Free Agency Moves Affect Steelers Drafting Of A Defensive Lineman?

The Pittsburgh Steelers uncharacteristically acted quickly on the first day of free agency to sign safety Mike Mitchell. 

Wait, it gets better.

The Steelers signed yet another free agent on Friday, former San Diego Chargers nose tackle Cam Thomas. The 6'3", 330 pounder will add needed depth on the defensive line. - http://tinyurl.com/p7ow9rw

We emphasize "depth" here because the Chargers benched the true nose guard late last season, despite having 26 tackles, two passes defended and an interception. If he is in middle, Steve McLendon could move to defensive end. Though, we simply doubt Thomas will step in as starter. 

While, yes, a Casey Hampton-type space eater in middle could upgrade a declining run defense, is today's NFL completely conducive to that? Also, is Thomas even that man? After all, he was benched toward the end of the season. 

One upside to Thomas (@Baby_Zilla76 on Twitter), though, is his age - he just turned 27 years old this past December. So he does at least have youth on his side. 

Still, it doesn't quite balance the losses of free agent defensive ends/nose tackles Al Woods (Tennessee Titans) and Ziggy Hood (Jacksonville Jaguars). Their departure makes the Steelers paper thin across the defensive line, with the biggest loss being Woods, who, in just two starts at nose tackle, still recorded more sacks last season than Jarvis Jones. He has definite upside that was certainly in the team's plans. 

Now, with just Brian Arnfelt, Hebron Fangupo and Nick Williams under contract, the signing of Cam Thomas is a needed depth signing if nothing else. 

I bet Brett Keisel looks a lot more attractive now. (Anybody have Alameda Ta’amu's number?)

Which now begs the question of what the Steelers will do regarding the position in the NFL Draft? 

Since the Steelers strayed somewhat from the norm in free agency, might they do so in May and go after a Louis Nix III? No, we simply don't expect a high pick to be spent on a defensive linemen. Especially if the guys at PatsCap.com are correct.

Their interpretation of the new CBA suggests that it limits the number of compensatory picks to the number of teams in the league. As a result, the Steelers may not receive a "net value" pick. This is dependent, naturally, "on how the NFL values the qualifying players, and which of the qualifying players is used when multiple 7th round value players are involved. One of the earlier listed teams could lose their pick instead."

If the Steelers are one of the earlier listed teams, they may not be compensated for the loss of safety Ryan Mundy. That would mean the Steelers would need to get as much value in each round as possible.

As far as the defensive line is concerned, that could mean players such as Daniel McCullers (3th-4th round), Justin Ellis (4th-5th round), Ryan Carrethers (5th-6th round) or Deandre Coleman (6th round). But, more on them in a later article.

Instead, therefore, look for the Steelers to keep going right along with their original plans. They have been reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac to want a big/big-play receiver in the first or second round. That won't change.

Speaking of receivers, per Joe Person, the Carolina Panthers beat writer for the Charlotte Observer, on his Twitter (@josephperson) account Monday: "Jerricho Cotchery's free agent trip to Charlotte began tonight with dinner with Ron Rivera and Mike Shula. Continues tomorrow. #courting.” 

As a way of free agency balance, what do the Steelers do? Bring in another free agent. CBSSports.com reported that the Steelers will host former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore on Tuesday. 

Business as usual this offseason. 

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TIDBITS: “@steelers: We have re-signed veteran offensive lineman Guy Whimper.

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We expect Cam Thomas' contract to be somewhere in the realm of two years, $2-$3 million with a minor signing bonus.