The hours are ticking down until the Steelers have to make a decision on whether or not they will have to place the franchise tag on nose tackle Casey Hampton. It is rumored that the Steelers have made one final contract offer to Hampton and his agent that would allow the Steelers to sign Hampton to a multi-year, future cap friendly contract. The new contract offer is reportedly front loaded and worth around 12 million dollars in guaranteed cash. The Steelers have until 4:00 p.m. Thursday to get the deal done to avoid having to use the tag on Hampton. If no new deal is reached, the Steelers will indeed use the exclusive franchise tag on Hampton while continuing to work out a new contract.
One of the caveats of getting a deal done with Big Snack would be that the Steelers could then turn around and use the franchise tag on free safety Ryan Clark and the transition tag on kicker Jeff Reed as planned. The franchise tag for safeties in 2010 is $6.455 million. This would enable the Steelers to keep all 3 unrestricted free agents they considered a priority without breaking the bank or hurting themselves in future years if and when the salary cap comes back into play. This would also give the Steelers plenty of time to work out a new deal with Reed and delaying a long term decision on the aging Clark.
Stay tuned as this could all go down very quickly if indeed the rumors hold true.
UPDATED: Hampton has agreed to a three year, $21 million contract with $11 million of the contract guaranteed.