Price Tag Coming Down On Free Agent LB David Hawthorne? Another James Farrior Type Find?

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?

  • Steelerfanmatt1933

    If the Steelers were able to strengthen an area of need, before the draft, through Free Agency, I’d be all for it. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about Hawthorne, but just a little research points quickly to a guy who is a potential replacement inside at the spot vacated by Farrior.

    Such a signing would give the Steelers the ability to focus on snagging the best Tackle, Guard, or Nose that falls to them in Round 1 and fill a need at ILB with a solid veteran.

  • mghjr88

    I personally really like the idea of picking Hawthorne up and was also surprised to see that he was still unsigned.

    Hawthorne only has 4 years of experience(3 as a starter) and was highly productive in the last 3 seasons(100+ tackles/year) compiling 6 sacks, 7 interceptions, 15 pass deflections and 5 forced fumbles.

  • Sam

    I dont see how the Steelers would pass on this guy if they had cap room, but they don’t so we’ll see. Agree that it would mitigate their need for a 1st round pick at LB

  • greeny

    If this is Lebeau’s last year, do you think that they will switch to a 4-3? Hood and Heyward would play DT with Keisel and Worilds perhaps at DE, thus making this point obsolete. Just a thought.

  • The Steelers are NOT switching to a 3-4. The reason they have worked so hard to keep Keith Butler on the coaching staff, is so that he can continue the 3-4 defense in Pittsburgh, after LeBeau retires.

  • you mean they’re not switching to a 4-3 😉

  • Yes, what you said!

  • Ironhead

    A Pro Football Weekly article on February 18 noted that “MLB David Hawthorne, the team’s leading tackler the last three seasons, is another key free-agent re-signing target, but we hear the Seahawks will not break the bank on Hawthorne’s behalf because of his durability issues.” This probably the reason why he hasn’t signed yet and his price is coming down.

  • Joe D

    I don’t see Steelers doing a deal with any free agent UNTIL the Wallace issue is decided.
    They already know what the draft picks will cost them and the affect on CAP.
    They don’t know what Wallace affect will be…

  • Pete

    LeBeau did not start the 3-4 defensive alignment in Pittsburgh. According to wiki, “the Steelers have used the 3–4 as their base since 1982, the season after Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene and end L. C. Greenwood retired.” So, you see, the Steelers have been using the 3-4 for a really long time. LeBeau’s retirement will not change their philosophy and even if it did, they don’t have the personnel on the roster to convert to the 4-3. They would have to make a lot of changes.

  • Jb

    Yeah, if this guy stays out there till’ the 2nd week of April, then the Steelers should inquire… if they don’t do so before then. I think if the Steelers believe he is a good solid player, who could fit in their system/locker room they will go after him. I do not think the team will let the salary cap issues stand in the way. Unless, this guy (Hawthorne) way over values himself, in the way Mike Wallace is doing currently.

    Some of the obvious signing hold-ups besides salary, could be that the Pittsburgh organization thinks more of the team’s current linebacking back-ups than we know. Another, could be that the coaches are very high on some of the linebackers in this draft. And, that they believe they can get their hands on that player(s) by the 24th pick. Otherwise in regards to Hawthorne, as Rocky would say… “Go for It!”

  • Dave, what do you think the odds are, that the Steelers will attempt to bring Keyaron Fox back, to add depth at ILB?

  • SteelersDepot

    I think that all depends on the draft. Of course if they take an inside guy early on, I do not think there is room for Fox numbers wise. They could have re-signed him for the vet minimum last year as that is what he signed with the Redskins for and obviously chose not to. So right now I would say no, but I learned along time ago to never say never as well.

  • The difference I see between this year, vs last year, is that we had enough depth at the position, so that letting Fox go made sense. Unless Kuechly falls to 24, I don’t see the Steelers taking a ILB early on. I don’t think Hightower fits what the Steelers are looking for at the position, but that’s for another time. If the team ends up taking a mid-round ILB, I don’t think the expectation would be for him to make a large contribution this year.

  • Guest

    I would be happy if the Steelers take Hawthorne. Living in the NW, I am very familiar with him. He is very productive, and has been playing & producing higher than he should based on his measurables. He is most likely viewed as having a low ceiling, but really, he has produced. He is well liked by the fans in Seattle for his production and work ethic. He would be a great guy to have in a Steelers uniform.

  • another great free agent signing could be Lousaka Polite! local kid and a great FB

  • PoKey21

    Hawthorne could be a good fill. I know Seattle’s D was strong last year, and the only reason their team was competitive. I dont know if he had a lot to do with that or not? He played at TCU, I like the way Gary Pattersen coaches his Defensive players, so smarts shouldn’t be a problem. I think the biggest benefit of all would be in the draft. It would free the steelers up to seek Offensive Linemen, Nose Tackle, and CBs in the top 3 rounds.

  • PoKey21

    lol at the whole convo

  • Woodleykills56

    Don’t believe the hype. Am I to believe the Steelers are serious about this guy? Like Mike Tolbert? I will believe it when I see it.

  • SteelersDepot

    Where did I say they had interest in him? Throwing his name out as possible free agent that would be a good fit in no way states they have interest in him.

  • TsarPepe

    Very good idea indeed, if they manage to fit him under the cap. But as all good pre-draft and draft ideas about the Steelers, this one will probably fail to materialize. It does give food for thought (to us, on the sidelines), but the Steelers are probably far from this thought.