The Pittsburgh Steelers will be assigning their restricted tenders offers in a few more weeks and restricted free agent nose tackle Steven McLendon certainly will be receiving one of them.
While the former undrafted free agent out of Troy is most likely to receive the lowly right of first refusal tender in the amount of $1.323 million, he could garner some attention from other teams being as there will not be any compensation involved in signing him away.
So why would McLendon be the most desirable of the Steelers restricted free agents? As I mentioned in my post about hybrid outside linebackers becoming more in demand thanks to more teams switching to a 3-4 defense, nose tackles also figure to be more sought after for that very same reason. While McLendon is already 27 years of age, he has played less 400 snaps during his NFL career. That\'s not a lot of mileage for a player with his kind of grooming.
McLendon can not only play the 0 and the 1 technique, but the 3, 4 and 5 as well. That means he could be a three down lineman in emergency situations, which in turn could make him even more valuable to a team looking to sign him away. He is also an extremely hard worker and hasn\'t presented himself to be a character risk at all. Pro Bowl caliber? No, but definitely serviceable.
In a nutshell McLendon would be a sign and plug-in player for a team switching to a 3-4 that doesn\'t already have player on their roster that can play the position. That prospective team could still address the position in the draft to groom for down the road.
The Steelers of course would have the rights to match any offer sheet that McLendon would sign, and likely would as long as it was in reason. They could, however, circumvent the whole problem by tendering McLendon at a second round level of $2.023 million, but that is unlikely to happen due to their salary cap situation.
Another solution would be to lock McLendon up with a two or three year deal. This would provide a first year cap hit that would more than likely be close to what the right of first refusal tender would be anyway.
Defensive line coach John Mitchell sang the praises of McLendon during the draft last year and it is hard to see him souring on him one season later. The chances of McLendon remaining in Pittsburgh are very good, but should he only be tendered at the right of first refusal level you have to think that a few teams would at least kick his tires. They would have nothing to lose by doing so.