NOTE: Bumping this back up for New Years Day banter. ~ DB
With the final week of the regular season now upon us, it's time to take a quick and dirty look at the 2014 free agents the Pittsburgh Steelers will have during the offseason. I have included a small note on each player and will dive more into each once the season is over.
LB Jason Worilds - Regardless of what happens with LaMarr Woodley during the offseason, the Steelers would be smart to work hard at re-signing Worilds, who will surely receive offers from other teams. As you saw on Sunday, this team has zero depth at outside linebacker and while Jarvis Jones should improve, it still could take some time before he masters the art of rushing the quarterback effectively.
S Ryan Clark - Clark very well might retire, but if he doesn't, he won't be in demand during free agency. If he does somehow return for one final season, he won't be re-signed until very late in the offseason and at that point he would have to be willing to play for the veteran minimum. ESPN might be his best offer.
DE Brett Keisel - You can throw Keisel in the same boat as Clark. Because of his age and wear and tear, Keisel isn't likely to receive attention during free agency. If the Steelers somehow decide that they want him back for one more year to play a reserve role, it would have to be for the minimum. This is likely it for him.
WR Emmanuel Sanders - Sanders will likely be considered one of the top five unrestricted free agent wide receivers this offseason and as a result, he will likely be playing for another team in 2014. The Steelers won't be able to match the deal he gets, so consider him gone. At least they will get a 2015 compensatory draft pick for him.
DE Ziggy Hood - One would think that Hood wouldn't get a lot of attention in free agency, but he is still fairly young and he is a former first-round draft pick. It will be interesting to see if teams that run a 4-3 would consider signing him to play defensive tackle like he did when he was in college. Due to the Steelers lack of depth on the defensive line, I think they will try to bring him back if the price is right.
WR Jerricho Cotchery - With Sanders likely gone, it would be wise for the Steelers to re-sign Cotchery to another two-year deal similar to one he was given in 2012. That way, he can continue to mentor not only Markus Wheaton, but another draft pick as well. Cotchery can still serve as a number three receiver at least for another season.
NT/DE Al Woods - The Steelers have a lot of time invested in Woods now and it would be silly to let him walk away. He won't be in demand and being as the defensive line lacks depth, they should easily be able to get him back under contract for next to nothing.
C/G Fernando Velasco - Velasco will be busy rehabbing his Achilles for a while. If he is willing to play for the minimum next season, the Steelers should consider bringing him back to serve as the backup center to Maurkice Pouncey.
S Will Allen - Allen made it back to the Steelers this season after being released by the Dallas Cowboys. Sooner or later this team has to get younger with their reserves, so 2013 might finally be it for one of Mike Tomlin's favorite players.
RB Jonathan Dwyer - If anything, Dwyer has earned another invite to training camp and he will more than likely be willing to sign for the minimum.
LS Greg Warren - Warren shows no signs of slowing down, so the Steelers should have no problem signing him to another one-year qualified contract for the veteran minimum at some point during the offseason.
T/G Guy Whimper - The Steelers will be in no hurry to re-sign Whimper. If he does return, it will be on another one-year deal for the minimum with no guarantees he makes it out of camp. It's time to move on.
C/G Cody Wallace - Perhaps Wallace gets a camp invite and an opportunity to compete against Velasco. Once again, we are talking about a one-year deal for the minimum with no signing bonus if it happens.
RB LaRod Stephens-Howling - The Steelers lack running back depth, but they won't be in a hurry to re-sign Stephens-Howling, who is still rehabbing his knee. We very well may have seen the last of him.
WR Plaxico Burress - I just can't see Burress back next season. 2013 was his final shot.
TE David Johnson - Johnson will be unemployed for a while and the best he can hope for is a training camp invite. I think it's time to move on from him and we'll have to see if the Steelers feel the same.
RB Felix Jones - 2013 will likely be the end of the road for Jones.
P Matt McBriar - If McBriar is back, it will be because the Steelers want a veteran punter in camp to push a younger punter. He will be unemployed for a while and better options are likely to be out there.
TE Michael Palmer - Um, no.
LB Stevenson Sylvester - End of the line.
LB Jamaal Westerman - With the Steelers needing a few offseason outside linebacker bodies, there's a chance Westerman might be asked back on one-year minimum deal. If he isn't, it won't be a big deal.
C/G Eric Olsen - Yeah, I don't think so.