Contract Quagmire For The Steelers
At $12 million over the cap, the Pittsburgh Steelers have some serious cap work to do and a boatload of free agents to either sign or allow to them test their luck on the open market. General manager Kevin Colbert met with the media in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine and confirmed that changes would be made following an 8-8 season.
The Steelers have nearly two-dozen players eligible for free agency so there are a lot of contract issues to sort out. Mike Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall, and Ramon Foster will most certainly leave via free agency. Keenan Lewis is a cornerback that they would like to resign, but his asking price might be too high. The Steelers will almost certainly say good-bye to some veteran free agents such as Charlie Batch, Casey Hampton, Plaxico Burress, Will Allen, Max Starks, and Byron Leftwich. Headlining a group of restricted free agents includes wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who will certainly be offered the league maximum, since he was a third round pick. The Steelers must also decide what to do with restricted free agent running backs Jonathan Dwyer and Ike Redman. Look for the team to sign one of them.
LaMarr Woodley/James Harrison
Two of the biggest contracts on the team belong to their outside linebackers. LaMarr Woodley signed a $61.5 million contract back in 2011 and, at the time, it seemed the Steelers had done a great job locking-up one of their franchise players. Woodley, though, has disappointed for the past season and a half. He was leading the team in sacks midway through the 2011 season when, chasing Tom Brady, he blew-out his hamstring and he hasn’t been the same player since. He really struggled last season, suffering through a series of frustrating leg injuries, and, when he was on the field, he underachieved greatly. Woodley has been at the center of controversy during this off-season as an unnamed player asserted that Woodley was terrible last season, and out-of-shape. Woodley’s conditioning has been called into question and, if he can stay healthy and motivated, he is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. If he continues on his present course, though, his signing might go down as the worst in team history. James Harrison is another outside linebacker with big money. He is due over $6 million next season and, in his late 30s, you have to wonder if the Steelers will pay him that kind of money. Harrison was bothered by a knee injury almost all of last season but, when he rounded back into form, he looked his old, disruptive and violent self during the last quarter of the year. Will the Steelers gamble that Harrison can stay healthy for another year? Will they ask him to take a pay cut? Or will they simply cut him in March? With no replacement in the wings, look for the team to renegotiate Harrison’s deal, making him more cap friendly, and, most importantly, keeping him in a black and gold jersey where he can do no harm to their franchise quarterback.
When Colon signed his $29 million contract in 2011, the team looked as though they had found their right guard for a decade. But Colon suffered a series of season-ending injuries and, with a $5.5 million cap hit, he will most likely be released in March. Before his injuries, Colon was probably the team’s best lineman but, with a youth movement underway on the offensive line, $5.5 million is just too much to pay for a back-up, oft-injured lineman.