Pittsburgh Steelers center Fernando Velasco wasn't going to make the Pro Bowl this season, but there is no denying that he stabilized the offensive line after starter Maurkice Pouncey was lost for the year in the season opener. Now that his season has also come to end due to a torn Achilles suffered late Thursday night in the loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Velasco's ability to cash in during the offseason as a free agent has taken a huge hit.
Had the Georgia product been able to stay healthy, there is no doubt in my mind that he would have received a look from several teams needing a starting center in 2014 during the offseason. At worst, he would have likely been able to sign an above average contract with another team looking to use him as backup center and swing guard. Now, he is damaged goods, but it might result in him being back in Pittsburgh next season on a one-year deal.
Velasco recently talked about his clouded future prior to the Ravens game in an interview on 93.7 The Fan.
"I understand the business, I understand the situation, this is his (Pouncey’s) team, this is his offense and it’s definitely his offensive line so I respect that and understand the nature of the business," Velasco said. "Honestly, for me right now, I’m just enjoying the process, I’m just enjoying my role right now being the starting center and I’m just trying to get better each week. We’ll see what happens in March. I know one thing, I love it here."
Velasco will now likely need a good seven months to fully recover from his Achilles injury and that means he will be considered damaged goods during the prime free agency signing period. If things go well, however, he should be fully healthy by the time training camp gets underway.
The Steelers could certainly use him as a backup to Pouncey, who recently told Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider that he would have no problem moving to left guard if that's what the coaches wanted him to do, should Velasco somehow be retained during the offseason.
A move such as that, however, would likely result in the team parting ways with current starting left guard Ramon Foster, who they signed to a three-year, $5.8 million contract last offseason. The Steelers would save $1.45 million in cap space should that be the course of action, however, so it can't be completely ruled out if they think Velasco can start for them.
So what do I think will ultimately happen? It's really hard to speculate this far out, but I can definitely now see Velasco being back in 2014 on a one-year, qualifying contract for the minimum as a backup. They won't have to make that move until he's fully healthy, but it makes all the sense in the world to do. He fits the Steelers and vice versa.
It was fun watching Velasco help gel the offensive line this season and I know I speak for many when I say that I hope his rehab goes smooth.