This offseason has gone just as expected for the Pittsburgh Steelers in regards to free agency and history has showed us that they very rarely make any big splash signings outside of re-signing their own. The deeper it gets into the free agency period is where the bargains are found and Head Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday at the owners meetings that next month is when they comb through the free agents to try to find value. Perhaps the biggest value on the free agent board right now that meets a need for the Steelers is Seattle Seahawks free agent linebacker David Hawthorne.
If you would have told me at the beginning of March that Hawthorne would still be an unsigned free agent, I wouldn\’t have believed you. Are his demands too high? Is he not checking out health wise? Has he had a run-in with the law? Why hasn\’t a team signed him yet? Hawthorne has had interest from a few teams and has made free agent visits to the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints, but neither signed him. One team that I think could use him is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and lord knows they have the cap space.
Hawthorne led the Seahawks in total tackles the last three two seasons and has shown to be a major thumper inside against the run. He also has improved his coverage skills and can move outside should the need arise. Some of the so-called experts try to pigeonhole him as a two down linebacker, but I disagree. He was nicked up a little last season, but still played in 15 games. He will turn just 27 years of age in May, so he should have good mileage left on his tires as well.
In short, I think Hawthorne would be a perfect fit in the Steelers 3-4 defense as a three down BUCK linebacker. While it might take him a little time to adjust to the Dick LeBeau nuances, he is smart enough to pick it up quickly and call the defense eventually, and he did that at times in Seattle. He also seems to be a high character type of kid and plays with a chip on his shoulder after going undrafted out of Texas Christian in 2008. Did I mention that his nickname is Heater? He was given that name by his Seahawks teammates because of the way he lays the heat when he hits.
Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert struck free agent gold back in 2002 when he acquired linebacker James Farrior via free agency after the New York Jets gave up on him. Could Hawthorne be another such find? Tomlin was asked Tuesday if they would consider bringing in another inside linebacker and his response was, “Certainly, at just about every position, we are going to have an approach that we are going to bring in competition and/or depth either through free agency or the draft. Obviously, we haven’t been major players in free agency up to this point, but that’s not unlike any other year for us. We will get in the game here at some point.” Never say never, right?
I have posted quite abit as of late about the BUCK linebacker spot since Farrior was released and in those post I have stated that I am not totally convinced that Stevenson Sylvester is a fit for that role as I see him more as a MACK linebacker. Larry Foote is entering his final year under contract and is primarily a two down backer at this point.
The Steelers have limited cap space, but if the price was right on Hawthorne, and they deemed him a long term fit inside, they certainly have enough room to get something done if the first year cap hit was around $2 million or so. We just do not know what type of contract that Hawthorne is seeking, but it would eliminate the need to draft an inside linebacker in the early rounds of the upcoming draft if he was signed. While I think the odds remain low that this actually happens, the longer that Hawthorne remains unsigned, the more willing he may be to get a deal done. I think he could be a long term fit inside, what about you? Could Hawthorne be the next Farrior?