With the start of free agency now right around the corner, a few people have asked my thoughts on whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers should go after soon-to-be Miami Dolphins free agent nose tackle Paul Soliai, so here are my thoughts on him.
For starters, if you are in the group that believes starting nose tackle Steve McLendon should be kicked outside to defensive end, then, yes, the Steelers would likely need someone other than Al Woods or Hebron Fangupo to fill that position.
If Soliai were indeed to be a target of the Steelers in free agency, one would think it would be because they want a short-term fix as the big Samoan is already 30 years-old. In addition, because of his weight and being of Samoan decent, there would be a worry about his knees. It is, however, encouraging that Soliai only missed one game in 2013 and that was indeed due to a knee injury. In total, he was on the Dolphins injury report six weeks last season with three of those weeks being the final three of the season due to an ankle injury. That ankle injury could explain his drop off in play against the run in those three games as well.
In total, Soliai played just over 500 snaps at defensive tackle in the Dolphins 4-3 defense last season and that’s right at about the number of snaps the Steelers would want out of him as their base nose tackle, as there is no way they would want him on the field for sub packages outside of goal-line situations.
So, would Soliai be a fit based on his recent play and the fact that he should have good knowledge of the 3-4 nose tackle position? I think most would agree that he would be, but what would it cost to sign him?
For starters, the Miami Herald reported just last week that there was “significant” interest from other teams in Soliai at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Being as he has played in both the 3-4 and 4-3, it’s hard to speculate which teams those were.
In addition to all of the reported recent interest, Soliai is coming off of a two-year, $11.5 million contract that included $5.7 million guaranteed when he signed. So, how much less, if any, would he be willing to take this time around? One would think he would expect at least a two-year, $9.5 million deal this time around with around $4.275 million guaranteed.
If that indeed were to be the price to sign Soliai, such a deal would likely require a $3 million signing bonus and a first-year guaranteed salary of $1.275 million. Those numbers would likely result in a 2014 salary cap charge of $2.775 million and a second-year charge of $6.725 million. The structure of those numbers could of course be massaged by giving a little higher 2014 base and a little lower signing bonus, but I think you probably get the idea. In addition, a three or four year deal, while likely unadvisable, could be an option.
The yearly average of $4.74 million that I used above, however, would be the bottom of his market value, in my opinion, and depending on the true amount of interest in him, he very well could get the same amount of his last contract. So, where do you put his value at and would that value be in the Steelers ballpark?