By Matthew Marczi
Player: Eric Olsen
Experience: 3 Years
Free Agent Status: Exclusive Rights
2013 Salary Cap Hit: $163,235
2013 Season Breakdown: The Pittsburgh Steelers are entering the 2014 offseason with what is perhaps an unprecedented 21 unrestricted free agents through which to sort—relative to team history—partially due to the removal of rookie three-year contracts for draft picks, which makes restricted free agents nearly extinct.
The Steelers had six restricted free agents last season, and re-signed the majority of them. They failed to re-sign Stevenson Sylvester to a contract that would have paid him over $1 million for the 2013 season, but he became an unrestricted free agent thereafter, and the Steelers then re-signed him to a veteran-minimum deal.
Eric Olsen is the forgotten man in the free agent mix because he’s not an unrestricted free agent. In fact, he’s not even a restricted free agent, but rather he is an exclusive rights free agent.
An exclusive rights free agent has only two years of accrued NFL experience, which applies to Olsen, of course. Exclusive rights free agents are hardly free agents at all—they may only sign with their former team, if they even extend an offer.
Notable recent exclusive rights free agents from the Steelers past include running back Isaac Redman and defensive lineman Steve McLendon, both former undrafted players who came to play notable roles for the team.
Unlike Redman or McLendon, Olsen joins the Steelers with prior experience. In fact, he started four games at right guard for the New Orleans Saints in 2012 without being a total disaster, though the Steelers list him as a center.
Olsen was brought to the team after a week in which the team lost center Fernando Velasco and also suffered more minor injuries to Kelvin Beachum, Mike Adams, and others along the offensive line. David Snow, who is still on the roster, was also signed at the same time.
Free Agency Outlook: It wouldn’t hurt for the Steelers to offer Olsen an exclusive rights contract. After all, they’ll need the bodies in camp regardless. He could be a potential practice squad candidate next year.
I see no reason why the Steelers would prefer Olsen over, say, Cody Wallace, who started the last few games of the season for the team, but the former 2010 sixth-round draft pick could surprise, depending on what the Steelers do in free agency and, less likely, the draft.
Other Steelers Free Agent Player Analysis
Ryan Clark – Unrestricted Free Agent
Emmanuel Sanders – Unrestricted Free Agent
Brett Keisel – Unrestricted Free Agent
Jerricho Cotchery – Unrestricted Free Agent
Ziggy Hood – Unrestricted Free Agent
Jason Worilds – Unrestricted Free Agent
David Johnson – Unrestricted Free Agent
Jonathan Dwyer – Unrestricted Free Agent
Fernando Velasco – Unrestricted Free Agent
Cody Wallace – Unrestricted Free Agent
Will Allen – Unrestricted Free Agent
Stevenson Sylvester – Unrestricted Free Agent
Felix Jones – Unrestricted Free Agent
Al Woods – Unrestricted Free Agent
Plaxico Burress – Unrestricted Free Agent
LaRod Stephens-Howling – Unrestricted Free Agent
Guy Whimper – Unrestricted Free Agent
Michael Palmer – Unrestricted Free Agent
Jamaal Westerman – Unrestricted Free Agent
Greg Warren – Unrestricted Free Agent
Mat McBriar – Unrestricted Free Agent