Is Steve McLendon An Attractive Restricted Free Agent For Teams Switching To A 3-4?

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.

  • Garrett Hunt

    He is 27? Just another reason I don’t understand why he hasn’t gotten on the field more. Are they waiting for him to be on the wrong side of 30 or what?

  • Kysteeler

    Don’t you know that the Steelers don’t start to play players until they reach the age of 30?!?

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    They should try to lock him up for 2-3 years to reduce this year’s cap hit before he hits free agency. They’d be very hard pressed to match a decent offer over the tender.

  • walter mason

    Lets wait until hes unrestricted to play him.

  • mokhkw

    This guy is too valuable to let go. While I don’t think he’ll ever be a starting NT, he would be very attractive as a DE in a 3-4 for other teams, or as a DT in a 4-3. He’s valuable the same way Chris Hoke was for all those years.

    I recall Kendrick Clancey who was in a similar situation to McLendon. He was a back-up for a few years then signed a deal with the Giants and had some really good seasons which he turned into a big $ contract with (I think) the Cards or Falcons. He was a very good player but he didn’t really fit the Steelers scheme and had Hampton playing in front of him.

    Teams looking for NTs to anchor a 3-4 generally look for guys who are natural 320lbers. I don’t see McClendon as an every down NT & I don’t think other teams will either.

  • dgh57

    I like McLendon It would be a mistake to let him go! I like him for his quickness. Never could figure out why he didn’t get to play more than he did!

    Did he ever get up to 320 pounds like I heard he did back in training camp?

  • steeltown

    He’s not going anywhere.. they’ll match whatever low end contract someone offers him. In my mind they should just give him an extension now, with a lower cap hit

  • steeltown

    Steelers website still has him listed at 280lbs but I’ve heard and read many reports that say differently and he sure doesnt look like he’s 280lbs.. I’d say 315lbs easily. Pouncey says he’s the strongest NT on the Team after playing against him in practice every week, I think he would know

  • NW86

    If you don’t see McLendon as ever being a starting NT, who do you expect the Steelers to start ahead of him this year?

  • NW86

    Agreed that a longer-term, reasonable contract would be the best answer, but McClendon probably isn’t interested in that right now. He’d probably rather hit the free agent market with the tender, to see if any other teams make a stab at him and cause the Steelers to drive their price up a little. I do see a multiyear deal as a possibility later in the free agency period though.

  • JohnnyV1

    He’s not going anywhere this year, and hopefully long term. I don’t see him in the probowl soon either, or he would have started ahead of 35 yr old Casey Hampton.

  • Dan

    I fully acknowledge it is time to move on, but I really wouldn’t be opposed to giving Hampton another 1-yr deal at $3mil, it he’d take it.

  • Jollyrob68

    He should be tendered enough to give them a 2nd rounder as they work to sigmn him long term. stop being stupid & cheap and sign the young players
    and cut the older ones.

  • Jollyrob68


  • Jollyrob68

    Because of Lebeau & Mitchells loyalty to older vets one the backslide of their career

  • steeltown

    I couldnt agree more.. players like McLendon, Lewis, Worilds, Dwyer, Foster, Sanders etc etc some of these guys could have been given extensions already. Now, guys like Foster, Lewis, and soon McLendon and Worilds will require much more money to secure long term.

    I understand the need to let players play out their low low rookie contracts, but signing them long term can also help cap (future cap) as in the instance with Lewis now, we’ll end up spending twice what we couldve even a season ago because they waited till he was a UFA and the long term effect of that will be negative on the cap because we are paying top dollar. Some people will argue that Lewis didnt show enough to earn a multi-year contract till 2012.. I call BS on that, as a Coach you should know what you have in a player after 2-3yrs… they knew enough to make him the starter this past season

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Yep, Tho I agree w Steeltown, u hav a good point it’s in McClendon’s best interest to first see what $$ market can offer him. DaveBryan is right about McClendon’s ability to play any position in 3-4 or a DT in 4-3 means plenty of teams culd want him. Our cap bind is screwed up because risks taken signing some other players turned out badly.

  • steeltown

    One of the biggest issues is waiting till players are fully groomed and become UFA’s till we sign them. In turn paying TOP $$$ for players that couldve been signed far cheaper the previous season

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Good one 🙂

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Yep. And if by chance the Hampton/Fang pans out, culd move McClendon to end where he wuld be an upgrade over Ziggy, or maybe even over Heywood. Its a no-brainer to cut any of the plenty of dead wood to sign McClendon. Hope the Steelers’ FO doesnt botch this one.

  • steeltown

    I will reserve judgement on Heyward..he gets little playing time with Keisel and Hood starting but seems to play well when he does… Hood needs to step it up another notch or they may choose to not re-sign him or atleast they wont be offering him BIG money

  • walter mason

    It seems as if Ziggy is on the field because he has a contract. I would have liked to see if McClendon could replace him and do a better job.

  • alex

    i like Mclendon and would definitely sign the guy, but does anybody even know his name outside of PITT cause he hasnt played much? Bigsnack needs to sign for the minimum for one last season and then there is the 69 felony counts pending on Alameda…

  • Garrett Hunt

    Only if he wasn’t on the field every down

  • NO, we are not waiting , Lebeau is.

  • mokhkw

    We’ll have to wait until after the Draft to see how this plays out. I expect that Hampton gets brought back for a 1 year deal close to minimum. Like Harrison, he’s too old for other teams to sign to a multi-year deal & if he wants to keep playing, the cold truth is that his best place to do that is with the Steelers….and for not much $s.

    However, if the Steelers draft a NT in Rd 1 or 2 then it’s possible they don’t bring back Hampton & let all the younger guys fight for playing time. Many variables here; does Ta’amu work out? If they cut him, then Hampton may have a better chance of returning, even if they draft a NT early.