The writing was on the wall that running back Willie Parker would go the way of free agency after the 2009 season. The Steelers had already anointed Rashard Mendenhall the starter and Wille still thinks he has what it takes to be a starter in the league. Parker, however has gotten the cold shoulder since the start of free agency. He had a visit with the Redskins early in March and was scheduled to visit Kansas City before Thomas Jones signed last week. The Redskins since have opted to sign Larry Johnson as well.
Now on Thursday, FWP is scheduled to visit St. Louis. The same St. Louis where another #39 already sits entrenched as the starter in the form of Steven Jackson. Parker surely has surrendered the thought that wherever he signs he will not be the starter. At this point, he likely would just like to have an offer to gauge his value. Now, we do not know for sure whether or not he has received one, but signs are pointing to him not getting one this offseason. Parker is currently the highest profile unrestricted free agent on the market. If no deal is struck with the Rams or any other team by the weekend, Parker will likely be without a team until after the draft in April.
Could Pittsburgh still be an option? Of course it could be. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert has said so in so many words, but it would be for the right price and the right role. Depending on if the Steelers address the running back position in the draft, could also mean that Parker might not be assured a roster spot in 2010, but if he signed before the draft, it would help his chances.
The last and most likely scenario would be for Parker to stay in shape and wait until an injury happens to a starter. There is no guarantee, but as the season gets started, the more desperate teams get because of injury and with no salary cap, Parker could probably demand a higher price the longer he waits. Time is ticking for sure and the road is a bit clearer for a return to Pittsburgh if Willie wants to come back for one more season. I wouldn\’t throw away those #39 jerseys just yet as the Steelers have been getting the gang back together as of late.