Player: Fernando Velasco
Position: Interior Lineman
Experience: 5 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2013 Salary Cap Hit: $522,353
2013 Season Breakdown: We all already know by now the story of Fernando Velasco and how he eventually wound up in Pittsburgh. He helped stabilize a Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line that was reeling from a season-ending injury to center Maurkice Pouncey, the line’s anchor, in the first game of the season.
The veteran center was able to plug in right away and start the second game of the year, which was vital for the Steelers at the time—despite the fact that they went on to lose his first three starts.
Velasco is an intelligent football player and adapted quickly, gradually becoming a leader among the offensive line, alongside left guard Ramon Foster, the elder statesman of the group. On the field of play, his performance itself was generally adequate, with some bumps and bruises along the way.
As I’ve written previously, Velasco has gotten—and perhaps deserved—somewhat special treatment from fans excusing some of his play for the fact that he was able to come in right away and stabilize the offensive line.
Generally speaking, Velasco’s run-blocking in particular left a lot to be desired in most instances, though he did have a good game against the Cleveland Browns the first time around.
On the other hand, he struggled against the New York Jets’s defensive front in Week Five, and later against the Buffalo Bills in the passing game. He also labored through his run-blocking in the second game against the Baltimore Ravens, which ended up being his last game of the year after getting injured near the goal line.
Free Agency Outlook: The Steelers would certainly like to bring Fernando Velasco back, but they would like to do so in a reserve role, likely for veteran minimum. Velasco will most certainly be holding out for a starting opportunity.
He started 11 games for the Steelers this past season, but the year before that, he started every game for the Tennessee Titans, and was only released after the Titans signed an experienced center in free agency.
The one advantage that the Steelers might have is, obviously, Velasco’s injury. Though he promises to be back early enough, there are no guarantees when Velasco will be ready to return to play. Additionally, he will be rehabbing with the Steelers, who will thus have the best understanding about his recovery.
He also enjoyed his time in Pittsburgh, which also plays in their favor, but there’s no way they can guarantee him a starting position. That could be a deciding factor if he has an opportunity to start elsewhere.
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
Velasco will turn 29 in February. Wallace was 29 in November. Even though neither is able to play tackle position, I’d try to retain both in backup roles for center/guard. Based on our injury history, they will get a lot of game time.
I would sign Wallace now and then wait to see how Velasco heals. If he is ready by camp, then try to sign him to compete. I think they are comfortable with Wallace as depth.
He suffered a severe injury in the second half of the season. If he is ready to compete bring him in. I personally didn’t see a our line get worse when he wen’t down, I actually think it got slightly better. Plus I like Wallace’s demeanor. I am also perplexed why foster was telling velasco when to snap the ball. It seemed like wallace was working without Foster.
I’m torn on this, its funny how in the 1st half of the season we were all about Velasco, then in the 2nd half we were singing the praises of Wallace. I hope they re-sign Wallace considering he is healthy.. and then offer Velasco a minimum deal to compete in camp when/if he recovers. Due to the severe injury I doubt he gets much interest in the FA market. Had he not been injured he would be a pretty hot commodity.
He played a lot of games for hte Titans and was on the street after week one of last year. I’m not sure that he did anything different with the Steelers that he didn’t do with the Titans to make him a hot commodity.
Question about how offseason rehabbing works – can Velasko continue rehabbing with the Steelers doctors after he becomes a free agent in March, or does the league require that he not work with the team when he is not under contract? If it’s allowed, would both sides want to continue working together?
Yea but had he played the entire year at C for us, he would have pretty good market value. The Titans moved on with a younger cheaper option, I think there are some Teams out there that would love an experienced C/OG that doesn’t break the bank, especially seeing that he came into Pittsburgh and started immediately and played admirably (of course the injury changes everything)
That is very true, I overlooked that. Just hte fact that he came in and adapted right away is attractive to teams.
i like that idea … Wallace showed he is more than competent as a back up !
It’s getting crowded in the interior OL when you consider Embernasty into the equation. One of these guys may have to learn how to play OT to make the roster but at the same time I hate to see any of them go. Embernasty is the least known so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Good question. Hope someone that knows answers it. I wonder if, considering our overly litigious society, they might want him out of there if he isn’t under contract….
True, i dont think we will keep both wallace and Velasco as we have potential with Ebernaste as well as any new incoming blood, but as far as OT goes the good news is if Adams never cuts it as a starting OT … i do think hopefully he can serve as a backup-swing guy … hope he’s not a complete bust !
Good point. It may boil down to who is more position flexible.
Reminds me of yesterdays game when Aikman praised the 49ers offensive line. “They’re big, strong and athletic!” It had me reflect on our line and I thought to myself I now know what Adams needs to work on… getting stronger and becoming more athletic.
Im not positive but im not sure that they can, the Team/Organization has to pay for the treatment, basically same as a workers comp claim, but I don’t think a player that is not under contract would rehab using a former Team facilities or doctors once he becomes a FA
We have a nice problem brewing with the OL this off season so if we play our cards right we could end up having solid depth to start next season something that in no way we could say starting off last season. It will come down to signability, any lingering health issues, and who’s more position flexible as to who’s the odd man out.
Cody Wallace hasn’t played Tackle since high school.. Embernate played RG for basically all of his college career, but he did play RT in the Poinsettia Bowl against BYU due to injuries. Neither seems position flexible at this point, but who knows they said the same thing about Foster and Beachum
I think the fact that Foster can play RT helps, in the event that Gilbert/Adams both go down at RT, Foster can kick out and Wallace/Embernate or whomever would then play LG
I believe it’s up to the Steelers descretion who their doctors see. If a player is on IR, its always on the teams dime. For someone like Levi Brown, the steelers don’t want to keep tabs on his progress, therefore they don’t have to offer him services. But the Steelers (League) still pays wherever he is getting rehabbed.
Can someone explain why Velasco needed that tap from Foster for the snap count, and why Wallace didn’t?
I think the ideal situation with Velasco is to let him rehab and get well and wait to see how that goes. If another team comes calling his way during the early FA period, and he signs elsewhere, so be it. However, if he is still available come June, then I think he would be a nice vet OL to sign (with the cap space freed up from the Woodley cut…like I always mention). While Wallace wasn’t dominant, he proved to be adequate enough as a starter that he makes for a nice backup again. I think they’ll make him a modest offer during the FA period. If he can get a better offer elsewhere, so be it…then they can come back to Velasco. It’s also possible that they can sign both Wallace and Velasco, if the prices are right, and this would give them some nice leverage in negotiations with Pouncey on an extension. One thing they should not do is overpay for Pouncey. Even though he is still good, his best season was his rookie year and coming off injury, his best year’s may actually be behind him (even at his young age).
Maybe they could trade Pouncey. Right now would be the best time.
Many teams do this, actually. It allows the guard to signal to the center when to snap the ball without having to look backwards so he’s more set and ready to take on an opponent.
Teams are obligated to allow players injured with the team to rehab with the team at the team facility, with the team doctors, unless they otherwise work out some type of injury settlement.
My guess is that both Wallace and Velasko were signed pretty close at the same time but Velasko was expected to start his 1st week after being signed therefore he didn’t know the offense. When Wallace ended up starting he had plenty of time in practice to get to know the offense and snap counts. You also have to consider crowd noise.
It will be difficult to trade Pouncey coming off a serious knee injury. I had high hopes that somehow the combination of Pouncey/Decastro in the middle would of at least helped elevate each others game and thus the run game but his injury negated that from ever happening.
I suppose that puts the Steelers in tough spot on whether or not to extend him. Although I think ACL injuries are less serious with lineman.
Thanks for the answer! In this case, the Steelers will have the benefit of keeping tabs on Velasko throughout the spring. They’ll probably try to re-sign Wallace first, then wait till after the draft, and if there are any spots left for an interior OL and Velasko is progressing well, they can offer him a league-minimum deal then to come into camp and compete for a roster spot.
I agree. Our flood of injuries with the O-line produced nice finds by our staff and now, we are actually talking about keeping Whimper as a backup as he surprised some people. Whimper? Imagine that. lol
I think If Embernasty heals correctly he will definitely be in the mix and I had him making the 53 before he got hurt.
Our O-line might actually be our strong point if we get Velasco and Wallace back and Adams plays R/T where he belongs.
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