The news last week that players like Steelers tackle Willie Colon will almost assuredly be unrestricted free agents, has started the wheels of speculation rolling as to who might now be the highest sought after free agents once the lockout is over.
Adam Caplan of FOXSports.com released his top 15 sought after offensive players with at least four years of service today and he has Colon rated 4th on that list. Caplan list the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and Steelers all as possible suitors for the services of Colon.
Colon torn his Achilles’ tendon before training camp last season and it forced him to miss the entire 2010 season. He reportedly started running again in November of last year and is reportedly fully recovered now. He was interviewed by Ross Tucker last Friday though and said he still wants to play for the Steelers. Colon said in that interview, that he is chasing Super Bowl rings, not wedding rings.
After Colon was injured last season, the Steelers signed veteran Flozell Adams to play right tackle. Adams deal was for two years with no signing bonus and he is scheduled to earn $5 million in 2011. Adams has stated he wants to return if he can start. The Steelers also drafted Florida tackle Marcus Gilbert in the 2nd round of the draft, back in April, and the Steelers hope he can add to the competition at tackle as well. The lockout will certainly hurt his early season progress though and unless he blows the doors off in training camp, he will merely be a backup whenever the season starts.
Before he was injured, Colon was rated as the best right tackles in the league in 2009, according to Pro Football Focus and I agree with that ranking. He improved in his pass blocking after the 2008 season and has always been a well above average run blocker. If he shows no signs of the injury suffered last season, the Steelers could very well get him re-signed, if the price is right. Colon is only 28 years old, 8 years younger than Adams, and had not missed a game until last season. The Steelers can easily cut Adams without salary cap ramifications or at the least, see if he will take a pay cut. The notion that Adams only wants to return if he starts, might make releasing him the obvious choice should Colon re-sign.
Like all players in free agency though, it will come down to money. Once free agency starts, the Steelers will likely try to get cornerback Ike Taylor back in the fold first. Colon would likely be the number 2 or 3 free agent priority after that, but free agency looks to be a feeding frenzy, whenever it begins, and decisions will have to made very quickly because of that. Should he not re-sign with the Steelers, I doubt Colon will have a problem finding a team to play for in 2011. The Super Bowl ring chase will become a big pay check chase though as his best shot at another ring would be in Pittsburgh.