There is a pretty good chance that Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton could be playing his final game in a Steelers uniform on Sunday versus the Miami Dolphins. Big Snack is an unrestricted free agent and will be 33 by the time the 2010 season starts. His return to Pittsburgh will likely decided by whether or not a new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) is agreed upon and if 2010 is an uncapped year in regards to a salary cap. If there is no salary cap in 2010, the Steelers could place the franchise tag on him in February and pay him for 1 year at around 6-7 million dollars. This move of course would not be a popular one with Hampton as he likely wants a long term deal and his final pay day in an uncapped year. He could stand to lose a ton of money if this were to happen and could affect his attitude.
Another possibility, if there is no cap in 2010, would be to sign him to a 3 year deal that is front loaded with year one guarantees that would make years 2 and 3 easier to swallow if a salary cap was back in place for 2011. This would mean that the organization would essentially open up their wallets and reward Hampton for his services in good faith. This would ensure Hampton ends his career in a Steelers uniform and not elsewhere.
One underlying factor is that whatever way the Steelers organization decides to go with Hampton, it is obvious they will need to draft a nose tackle in the 2010 draft. Big Snack would be none to happy to mentor a guy that will be replacing him, it isn\’t his nature. The Steelers coaching staff does like to bring defensive draft picks along slowly and having Hampton one more season would allow for this.
The last thing to think about is Chris Hoke. Hoke is signed through the 2010 season and could be a one year fill in with proper rotation of a rookie. Knowing the Steelers, this will likely be the way they go salary cap or not, but it would not be out of the question to see big number 98 in black and gold one more season. Time as they say, will tell.