As we enter Day Three of free agency, let’s take a breath and look at what’s happened – and not happened – with the Steelers.
They released two starters and lost two more in free agency. James Harrison and Willie Colon were cut, and Mike Wallace signed with Miami and Rashard Mendenhall signed with Arizona.
The Steelers also signed one free agent in backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and five of their own free agents – Ramon Foster, Larry Foote, Plaxico Burress, David Johnson and Greg Warren. In addition, they signed William Gay before free agency began and while he won’t count in the scorecard, he fills a key spot in their secondary if Keenan Lewis leaves. They also signed veteran cornerback Justin King awhile ago, removing him from their list of their impending UFAs, which once stood at 18.
I have adjusted the likelihood of Lewis leaving from “will” to “if.’’ I thought he would be signed shortly after the period began Tuesday. He said he is visiting the New Orleans Saints, and that would be a good spot for him because it’s his hometown and they are a Super Bowl contender.
However, there has not been the kind of feeding frenzy around what Peter King ranked the eighth-best free agent available. Maybe teams are a little hesitant about Lewis’ mere one season as a starter, or maybe the fact he could come down with no interceptions in that one season.
There also is the matter of James Harrison. It’s obvious he will not receive a major deal, or otherwise teams would have jumped on him immediately. The Steelers cut him Monday, a full day before free agency began, so he wasn’t suddenly dumped into the middle of the market.
Harrison is a pass rushing outside linebacker, so he is limited to 3-4 defenses in the league. Baltimore has reportedly talked to Bill Parise, Harrison’s agent, but there have been no negotiations. The Ravens also don’t have much cap space and Harrison might be a situational player with the Ravens, who lost outside linebacker Paul Kruger to the Cleveland Browns as a free agent. Kruger was a situational player in Baltimore.
It’s become clear that Harrison will not see anything near the $6.57 million he was to make in salary with the Steelers this year, but then the Steelers were unwilling to pay that either. What they were willing to pay is anyone’s guess at this point – there was one report they wanted Harrison to take a 30 percent paycut and Harrison refused.
Unless Harrison gets absolutely no offers elsewhere, he’s unlikely to return to the Steelers, even if their final offer was more than what he might make elsewhere.
It’s reminiscent of the Rod Woodson case in 1997. He was a free agent and – contrary to some rewritten history – the Steelers tried to sign him. Woodson did not have a good season in 1996 after his ACL surgery early in the 1995 season. Still, they wanted him back, just not at the kind of money he thought he was worth.
His pride wounded, Woodson signed a one-year contract with San Francisco for less money. He played one year with the 49ers and then signed with Baltimore, where he moved to safety and refreshed his career.
It worked out for Woodson in the long run, but Harrison will be 35 and does not have that kind of time to work it out. He needs a team now, and the money he gets may pale in comparison to what he could have earned by staying put with the Steelers.
Either way, the Harrison ordeal ultimately looks as though it will become a lose-lose for both the team and the player.
Onto some stuff:
--- The Steelers reportedly will entertain former Bears tight end Kellen Davis today. The veteran was cut by the Bears Wednesday, as was Matt Spaeth, a former Steelers tight end who signed with the Bears as a free agent in 2011. Neither is much of a receiver but with Heath Miller hurt and Leonard Pope a free agent who did little for them last season, not only is Davis worth a look but it would be a surprise if they also don’t look at Spaeth, whom they favored when he played for them, at least when Bruce Arians was their coordinator.
--- William Gay may bring the Steelers a supplemental draft pick this season, a bonus since he has returned to them. He was one of the few free agents who left them when he signed with Arizona. The only other was halfback Mewelde Moore, who went to Indianapolis. The Steelers countered by signing UFAs Pope and Brandon Johnson. The difference could eke out a seventh-round supplemental for them.
--- Ryan Mundy reportedly will visit the New York Giants today. His days with the Steelers dwindled when he was bumped from replacing Troy Polamalu with Will Allen. Mundy was a good special teams player but a disappointment when he got his chances at filling both safety spots. The Steelers want to find some young safeties, maybe someone who could replace Troy Polamalu or Ryan Clark by 2014 and serve as a backup this year. However, they also might like to have Allen back at his minimum for another year.
--- On vacation for the next week, starting Friday. Gerry will fill this space capably.
--- Onto your questions:
--- YOU: When free agency dies down I would be interested in you writing an article about whether the Steelers should have traded their impending free agents. Specifically it could be argued that both Wallace and Mendenhall were more a negative than a positive influence on the team this year-and the Steelers receive nothing in return for them.
ME: You cannot trade an impending free agent.
--- YOU: What became of Demarcus Van Dyke? I thought that we was one of the restricted free agents, but I hadn't heard of a tender offer or anything at all for that matter.
ME: No, he was an exclusive rights free agent, as was Baron Batch. Those have no choice but to re-sign with the team at their minimum and that, reportedly, is what Van Dyke has done.
--- YOU: I read where you said the Steelers did Colon wrong by not informing him or releasing him sooner. Do you think the Steelers may have kept him if they couldn’t work out a contract with Foster or found a suitable replacement. It would have been awkward if the Steelers would have notified Colon that he would be released only to change their mind.
ME: I suppose that’s possible, although I was told a long time ago he would be gone and have written that. More likely, the Steelers used Colon to get Foster at a cheaper price.
--- YOU: Whenever you post a Steelers story on Post-Gazette.com (not PG+), there is an NFL.com video on the right margin that automatically starts playing, loudly. It's VERY annoying. No other PG articles have such auto-play videos attached. Could you pass along to your management to please remove these annoying videos, or at least make them not play until the reader asks them to.
ME: Sorry, that’s above my station. It might be a paid sponsor and, like watching NFL games for free, you have to put up with the commercials. You can always hit the mute button on your computer, as I do.
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