2013 Steelers Free Agency: 17 Unrestricted, 5 Restricted & 2 Exclusive Rights Free Agents

The Pittsburgh Steelers head into the offseason with several big decisions ahead of them as far as free agency and personnel goes. In total they will have 17 unrestricted free agents , 5 restricted free agents and 2 exclusive rights free agents.

Cornerback Keenan Lewis and guard Ramon Foster will likely be considered the Steelers two highest priority unrestricted free agents heading into the offseason. Lewis had a fantastic break out season and led the league in pass breakups heading into the final regular season game. When you look at the list of cornerbacks around the league that will be unrestricted you will see that Lewis could garner some serious attention if not locked up prior to the start of the free agency signing period.

Foster was one of the Steelers most consistent offensive linemen all season and nearly played every offensive snap in addition. He played both guard spots and right tackle in 2012 and showed that he was more than capable enough at all three. Should the Steelers decide to part ways with Willie Colon, the chances of locking up Foster will increase.

Wide receiver Mike Wallace and running back Rashard Mendenhall are expected to test free agency and neither are expected to be hit with the franchise tag. The chances of either being back in 2013 is almost non existent at this point.

Several of the older unrestricted free agents that stated games in 2012 such as linebacker Larry Foote, nose tackle Casey Hampton, tackle Max Starks, quarterback Charlie Batch and quarterback Byron Leftwich will all be allowed to shop themselves during the offseason. The only way that Foote, Hampton and Starks are back in 2012 would be if they agree to one-year deals for roughly the veteran minimum. Basically, qualifying contracts that come with reduced salary cap hits. Those types of resignings usually take place in June or July so it will be a long wait. There is a good chance that either Batch or Leftwich return next season, but not both.

Bit players such as Doug Legursky and Will Allen are not expected to receive much if any attention in the early part of free agency. The only way that both return in 2013 would be on one year deals for the minimum with no guarantees that they will make the 2013 53 man roster.

The Steelers are expected to tender all five of their restricted free agents with original round low tenders that will be right around $1.3 million. All five should be easily retained and the Steelers will have an opportunity to match any offer sheet should any of them sign one.

The two exclusive right free agents will be back as well as they must except the one year minimum salary offered them if they want to play in 2013.

We will break each player down more in depth as we progress through the offseason, but below is your official list of Steelers free agents.

Steelers 2013 Unrestricted Free Agents

WR Mike Wallace

RB Rashard Mendenhall

CB Keenan Lewis

G Ramon Foster

T Max Starks

ILB Larry Foote

NT Casey Hampton

S Will Allen

G Doug Legursky

WR Plaxico Burress

QB Charlie Batch

QB Byron Leftwich

LS Greg Warren

FS Ryan Mundy

LB Brandon Johnson

TE Leonard Pope

CB Justin King

NOTE: The Steelers list both David Johnson and Jeremy Kapinos as FA\’s as well. Johnson as a URFA & Kapinos a RFA. Both were waived injured prior to the start of the season.

Steelers 2013 Restricted Free Agents

WR Emmanuel Sanders

NT Steve McLendon

RB Jonathan Dwyer

RB Isaac Redman

LB Stevenson Sylvester

Steelers 2013 Exclusive Rights Free Agents

RB Baron Batch

CB DeMarcus Van Dyke

  • RW

    I know this sounds crazy, but at some point the Steelers need to hedge their bets and sign some RFAs to long term contracts. While Emmanuel Sanders hasn’t played like a number 1 or 2 receiver, it might be a good time to sign him to a 3 or 4 year deal. It would likely come cheaper than if we were to give him another year to prove he can be a number 2. Even if he only pans out as a number 3 receiver, at least you don’t pay him as a number 2 should we wait and he has one fluke, tremendous year. I think too often we wait to see if someone will pan out by looking at how they play in a contract year, then they end up playing outrageously well (Woodley) and subsequently turn out to be only good players over the next few years (when we pay them like they’re one of the best). Like I said, hedge your bets. If you intend to lock them up anyway, do it at a point when the cost/benefit is optimal.

  • steeltown

    The totally agree with Foster and Lewis. Lets face it, Foster is an above average player, another undrafted gem if you will and they cant be to comfortable with Colon these days. The only other guys I would like to see back are Foote, Starks and Will Allen

  • steeltown

    Agreed. They dont have much wiggle room (unless Harrison is released and maybe Colon (after June 1st)) but I agree guys like McLendon and Dwyer could be given multi-year deals for pretty cheap right now. Just dont know how much money they’ll have to play with

  • Pete

    Completely agree.

  • RW

    I think they can get those guys back on the cheap, with the exception of maybe Starks. Foote is getting older and so is Allen. Starks is a bit of an enigma; he may be able to get a better deal than the vet minimum elsewhere. Plus I think with Foster signed, we have two starting tackles (Gilbert and Adams) and two swing-men in Foster and Beachum. If Starks is looking for anything above the vet minimum and no garauntees, it would be hard for us to keep him with so many other priority free agents (K. Lewis and Foster), while also trying to look to the future and potentially signing some other young guys on the cheap to long term deals (C. Allen, S. McLendon, J. Dwyer and E. Sanders). I think we can clear enough cap space to get those guys signed with just a couple of restructures (Timmons and Ben) and some tough cuts (Colon and Harrison). I think we can find a talented pass rusher and some safeties in the draft that would allow us to have some depth in key defensive areas moving forward. The organization may feel like it already has depth at OLB with Worilds and A. Robinson (if he can develop coverage skills). I tend to think a first round pick on a pure pass rusher and a second rounder on a FS/SS would be best, but I’m not in the front office. Don’t forget that restructuring this year might not be so bad either, the salary cap is projected to increase significantly (maybe as much as 20 or 30 million) for 2014 with the new ESPN deal in place. We should absolutely hedge our bets with our young guys this year in order to take advantage of that. The other thing that helps is the new 1st round cap on rookie salaries. All of that said, there’s no time like the present to get some promising young talent under contract.

  • steeltown

    Agreed. A lot of people are not figuring in the 2014 deal that will increase cap, not to mention after 2014 almost all of the Vets (Troy, Ike, Keisel, Harrison etc) and their hefty salaries will be gone or retired. Would love to see Foote and Allen back, while I agree Starks is less important, I just want him because at this point we KNOW he can play LT, there’s a lot of uncertainty as to Gilbert or Adams playing on the Left side.

    The predicament we’re in with Foster now is exactly why I think they should sign McLendon and Dwyer as soon as possible, theyre still bargains at this point… I wanted them to sign Foster last season, before he became an UFA, but I guess they were hoping Colon would stay healthy

  • Pete

    Hampton played very well this season but I’d like to see if McLendon can consistently play at a high level as Hampton seems to think he can. The play of the corners especially was excellent. Hopefully, Lewis isn’t too expensive to bring back. I think they also have to bring back Starks for another year if they can afford him.

    The D didn’t get the outside pressure they wanted with Woodley and Harrison. Harrison I hope will be back for another year or two. Woodley has to prepare better in the offseason. He is vital. There’s bound to be a few UFA who get away this offseason. Wallace and Mendenhall I see as the most likely players to leave. Also possibly Hampton, Foster and Lewis. I just hope the Steelers are not gutted in free agency.

  • Reader783

    I just went through it and decided on the players I think we want to and will be able to re-sign, not the players I want to resign. Of the list above, I think we will be able to re-sign: Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis, Max Starks, Will Allen, Plaxico Burress (for camp at least), Charlie Batch (for camp at least), Ryan Mundy (for camp at least), Manny Sanders, Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman, Stevenson Sylvester and Baron Batch (dependent on other resigns).

    To avoid obvious questions, I don’t think we will be able to afford Foster because I think a team like the Colts or Cards might offer him more than we can give, I’d love to have him back though. Foote will go out on his own terms and retire, in my opinion. Legursky will also get money somewhere else, I think, but I’m not sure. Van Dyke, who knows, but I think we can get a better special teams guy, but he’s cheap so I could see him come back for next season.

    Now I debated with ALOT of guys, but I think this is the list of guys we will re-sign this offseason.

  • steeltown

    While I like your list (minus Mundy) in my opinion, I do not think they’ll have enough to sign Wallace AND Lewis, just my opinion, but they have pulled some crazy maneuvering before

  • Reader783

    Yeah I had the same debate with myself, but this was my logic: Last year, we were 10 million MORE over the cap than were are this year and we got it down far enough to tender Wallace AND sign Antonio to a big contract. In my opinion, Wallace only deserves about the same contract as AB, so assuming we can get down to the same cap level as last year, and then some because we have more room, I think we can resign Wallace to a Brown-like deal, with some space for Keenan Lewis. All the other guys on my list won’t really be getting huge pay raises, so there isn’t much other space needed. And as far as Mundy, I think they will at least have him as a camp body, but who knows, could change with what we draft.

  • steeltown

    I hope you’re right. It seems plausible. I think If they re-sign Will Allen then Mundy is gone, they have already shown that they lost trust in him, especially with younger guys like Golden and Cromartie-Smith on roster

  • Reader783

    Yeah, I see your logic. Especially since Mundy will be more expensive too.

  • steeltown

    Yea.. and he’s nothing more than a special teams player for us at this point. He’d probably start on 30 other teams

  • grw1960

    I think they only sign Dwyer to a one year tender because he still has not shown he can keep his weight down and stay in shape for a whole yearI think the Steelers draft another WR and RB in the 2013 draft if they can sign Lewis and let Mendy go?

    Hope fully the Steelers can resign Foster if they let Colon go?

  • steeltown

    Also, Van Dyke and Baron Batch are exclusive rights FA’s meaning they have to sign with us for the minimum and have no rights to negotiate with other Teams or they cant play in 2013… I think Van Dyke has potential, could be special teams guy and 5th CB on depth chart. They liked him coming out of college

  • NW86

    I wish I shared Dave’s optimism about keeping all 5 RFA’s for the minimum original round tenders. Dwyer was only a 6th round pick and McClendon was undrafted, so a team wanting to sign him wouldn’t have to give up any draft pick. All they would need to do is give him an offer that the Steelers can’t/won’t match. I realize he’s never been a starter so maybe nobody has seen enough film to make an offer more than the $1.3M tender, but I think it’s a risk.

  • Guest

    I believe you can place whatever Rd tender you like on a player.. so they could put a 2nd Rd tender McLendon if they choose, I think

  • steeltown

    I think they definitely draft WR, RB & LB, no question… and if they do sign Foster then they could potentially release Colon even with his dead money hit. If they release him after June 1st they save $5-6million and the dead money hit wont come till 2014…. could happen

  • If we can get Wallace back we won’t have to worry about WR for a couple years. Also, Lewis stepped it up big this year and deserves a little salary. Starks, Burress, Charlie Batch will all be back because they love the organization. (Maybe even sign Batch as a QB coach?) Sanders, Dwyer, Baron Batch, Van Dyke aren’t going anywhere. The only two that are going to walk are (maybe) Foster, but (DEFINITELY) Todd Haley. Get him out and bring back Ken Whisenhunt for the OC. Draft Manti Ta’o in the first, hopefully Eric Reid, Dion Jordan, or Barkevious Mingo drops to us in the 2nd. Take a gamble and draft Tyrann Mathieu in the 3rd. If we don’t get Foster back draft a guard or just take a backup QB in the 4th and 5th. Grab the big TE from UCLA Joseph Fauria in the 6th. Draft a K in the 7th. Then sign Brandon Jacobs for min in free agency. All of this will equal a solid year for us.

  • Mikey Hoje

    Wallace played the entire season with “risk of significant injury” without long term contract protection; it probably slowed him down a bit?

  • Reader783

    Yeah, I knew they were ERFA’s, but that doesn’t mean we have to give them an offer hahah. That’s why I mentioned that Van Dyke would be cheap, but I just don’t know if he is worth the roster spot. Same story with Batch. I said “dependent on other signings” to say that he might not return if we get Dwyer and Redman back, and who knows about Mendy. Maybe they like him more than we know.

  • grw1960

    Right now the Steelers have so many needs, who they manage to sign or redo deals with will have a huge impact on this years draft,
    Plus I am not sold on Colons injury problems and Gilbert being a future starter. Gilbert for me was a reach in the 2nd round and in 2012 spent too much time rolling around on the ground or on other OL mens legs,
    The OLs ability to move defense for the run game is a concern for me.
    Not likely the Steelers will be able to sign both Wallace an Lewis with the cap the way it is again for the 2013 season.
    Plus I believe the Steelers need a tall/big young tough WR to make those tough catches.

  • SteelersDepot

    They can match any offer he gets. No reason to put a higher tender on McLendon or Redman. Remember how freaked out people were about Legursky and Foster last year? Where did those two end up?

  • zyzak

    all of the UFAs. are not worth keeping

  • zyzak

    They need a Dlineman to get some sacks.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    This will be the easiest offseason cuts ever because I cant think of more than 10 players on our roster worth keeping.

  • NW86

    This is true, and both had started more games than McClendon has. Point taken.

  • Kingsley

    Wallace dropped a lot of balls this year but wanted big money he is still a big talent I say put the tag on him if his production is low in 2013 let him go I like Brown Sanders and Wallace even though Sanders have to hold onto the Ball I think Heath Miller was our best Offensive player this year he made some big catches Mendenhall has to go he never was that good to me likes to run outside too much spins in the hole too much stays hurt I wouldnt just lock up any of those Rb I think its time for a change of course Rainey will stay think he should put on about 10 pounds of muscle If We can get an explosive back like Tavon Austin out of West Virginia we will be good and a power back to compliment him Willie Colon he had a great year but he stays hurt too much and gets too many penalties Id rotate him in we will lose 1 of our corners just because it was an auditioning season I think Lewis will demand more money Cortez will find another team We have to address the secondary issues in the off season we didnt even need Troy this year maybe Troy 6 years ago Leftwich and Batch its time to go the quarterbacks in the draft arent that great but I feel we can get a descent backup and maybe sign a vet D-Line Casey is old had a solid season I dont think he will be paid big if he leaves so he end up staying Brett Kiesel had a descent season glad he stayed healthy Woodley had the hamstring and a medium year but he is better than james harrison at this point yes we gotta let james go he is inaffective since the knee surgery and he isnt getting any younger Timmons was our best defensive player this year played all 16 games and should be in pro bowl we could use a few O-line men the ones we got in draft got hurt but I still dont thank their trassition to the NFL is any good Clark needs a safety backing him I think Mundy is leaving

  • steeltown

    Agreed about McLendon. In the 3-4 you need a BIG pile mover like Hampton especially on rushing downs. I think they hope Ta’amu might be that guy, but also now with the League really evolving to ‘pass happy’ you need a strong guy in the middle that is also quick who can get to the next level and that is exactly what McLendon is, he gets after it

    I would hope between Foster and Lewis, that they can retain one of them

  • Mike Carroll

    I think the team should make a real attempt to retain K. Lewis, Foster and Foote during the main free agency period before the draft. But, a lot will depend on how the market values Lewis. There should not be as much concern or urgency about the rest of the UFAs on the list. But, several should be brought back later on qualifiying contracts including Batch, W. Allen and possibly Burress.

    All the RFAs and ERFAs should be tendered, except possibly Sylvestor.