Examining The Steelers Free Agents In The Latest CBS Sports Rankings

You can tell that the start of the free agency signing period is getting nearer as we are starting to see more rankings of the soon-to-be free agents emerge on the internets. On Wednesday, CBS Sports senior writer Pete Prisco and NFL insider Pat Kirwan released their free agent rankings and they included five Pittsburgh Steelers players on it.

Based on their rating system, linebacker Jason Worilds is the highest rated Steelers player at 55th overall. As far as 3-4 outside linebackers go, however, Worilds ranks second behind only Brian Orakpo (4th overall). If indeed Orakpo is re-signed by the Washington Redskins, and it appears he will be, Worilds really isn’t expected to have any competition in free agency, at least according to their rankings.

Adam Caplan of ESPN wrote recently that he expects Worilds’ market value to be an average of $6-$7 million per year, but without any competition, that number might be way too conservative. We will find out very soon.

Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders cracks their list just one spot behind Worilds at 56th overall, however, as far as the wide receiver position goes, Sanders ranks 8th overall. Two wide receivers ranked ahead of him, Anquan Boldin (2nd overall) and Riley Cooper (7th overall), are expected to be re-signed by their respective teams before the start of free agency. In addition, the Seattle Seahawks really seem intent on signing Golden Tate (5th overall), so if all of that comes to fruition, Sanders, according to their rankings, would become the fifth ranked free agent wide receiver on the market with virtually no competition behind him.

So what’s Sanders market value? If you believe recent reports, New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (4th overall) wants something in the neighborhood of $6 million per season. If indeed most teams have him ranked higher than Sanders, that doesn’t bode well for the SMU product.

Let’s say the best offer Sanders gets is $5 million per season. Do you think it’s worth the Steelers trying to bring him back for that amount? A five-year, $25 million contract would likely need around $12 million guaranteed attached. Giving Sanders an $8 million signing bonus, a first year base salary of $1 million and a second year guaranteed base of $3 million would make his 2014 cap hit $2.6 million and his 2015 cap hit $4.6 million.

Do I think that’s still too rich for the Steelers blood? Yes, I do, but what if his market value turns out to only be $4 million per season? Would you make the attempt to re-sign him at that price? What if the five-year, $25 million contract I laid out above only required $10 million guaranteed over the first two years including a $6 million signing bonus?

Moving on down the rankings list we find defensive end Ziggy Hood ranked 91st overall. They have him listed as a defensive tackle, however, but we’ll play along just the same as it’s feasible some teams might think he’s a better fit inside in a 4-3 defense. According to their defensive tackle rankings, Hood is ranked 14th overall. I’m not going to get too deep into his market value, but let’s just say that if the Steelers want to re-sign him, he shouldn’t break their bank.

Rounding out the Steelers players on their list are safety Ryan Clark (142nd overall) and wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (147th overall). Do you think a team is going to be willing to pay either of them much more than the veteran minimum? Cotchery has more value to the Steelers than he does elsewhere, so you would think a two-year, $2.5 million contract with $1.5 million guaranteed would easily get him back in the fold. The Steelers will probably let him shop his services and if he doesn’t get an offer, maybe he returns on a one-year qualifying contract for the minimum that comes with a reduced salary cap charge.

As for Clark, if they make him an offer at all, I can’t see it being more than a one-year qualifying contract for the minimum. That’s a big, ‘if’.

I have given you plenty to discuss, so have at it in the comments. Also, let me know your Sanders value to the Steelers per year as well as it should make for an interesting debate.

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • steeltown

    5yrs $25MIL?… no thanks, not that I don’t think he is or could be worth $4-5MIL per but I think we need to spend that money elsewhere. We’ve shown to be able to find and groom skill position players, namely WRs over the yrs. We have AB, we have 2nd yr Wheaton and we have the draft rich with WRs coming up.
    In regard to Cotchery, I think he’s earned a new deal, he’s earned another 2yr $3MIL contract. I think offering him a 1yr qualifying deal at this point is a bad move. He loves Pittsburgh and I would assume he would sign immediately and provide his usual clutch receiving and veteran leadership with a very young group

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I feel for what he produced last year that 5M would be the high side but I can say it is justified. One thing we need to be careful of however is the fact that even though Cotchery had a really good season his age will catch him. I do not want to put too much stock in him. I personally would rather have Sanders for 5 years then Cothcery for 2 year, which I feel is all he has left. To me I look at what is best for the future. I would have let Ike go last year to keep Keenan for the same reason last season.

  • Callentown

    I gotta say..

    At this point, I don’t want either Clark or Sanders back.

  • westcoasteeler

    My boy Ryan Clark is doin well on ESPN.

  • steeltown

    Yea but how good is Sanders or how good can he be?? I’d rather have Cotch for cheap for the next couple yrs while we groom Wheaton and a soon to be draft pick with the hopes that one or both of them produce more than Sanders

  • Milliken Steeler

    We only need Cotch for another year or two. We have Wheaton ready to go now, Moye and Brown to compete and they are probably going to draft another wr in rounds 1-4.

    I think Sanders has had plenty of time to prove himself here and its time to move on.

  • treeher

    Wonder if Stillers will have any interest in D. Jackson from Cleveland?

  • treeher

    Yeah, I think Sanders has topped out as a #2 guy and there are many players who can fill that role as good or better and for less money.

  • cp72

    I think calling him a #2 is borderline. He’s going to get similar money to Riley Cooper and to me that’s about 2 million per year to much. If he goes to a team that has less quarterback talent than Ben he will be lucky to catch 50 balls.

  • treeher

    Yeah, he might drop 50.

  • george

    You took the words right out of my mouth! Lock Cotchery up and draft a big WR.

  • dgh57

    You got to be kidding me, 5yrs $25? When a guy isn’t considered a deep threat, not the greatest hands, and is immature to boot you certainly don’t give him a raise from from his previous year! Say GOODBYE to Sanders as there’s plenty of WRs to choose from in the upcoming draft!

  • Steve

    Let him stay there.

  • AndyR34

    Not so fast…it is unlikely that Wheaton and a new draft choice will replace Sanders production…just saying. And without the “threat” of Sanders, it is unlikely that Cotch will have a year like last year, IMHO.

  • WIINGY

    Ziggy Hood 91st….. time to find a new list.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    Sanders shopped his services last year and his value was $2.5M. It has probably gone up a bit after last year and the extra cap room increases everyone’s value, so I put him around $3.5M/yr. He may get more elsewhere, but if he does there are other receivers who are comparable to him that will play for that $3.5M or less.

    I don’t get all the character bashing of Sanders. Other than some untimely drops, I think he’s been a very solid player in terms of effort, output, and image. The fact that he signed a contract with New England last year that doubled his pay should hardly be held against him. I thought he said all the right things when the offer was made and matched. I’d like to see him back, but price is the key here.

  • steeltown

    Agree to disagree… I think its very plausible, but what exactly are you arguing? That THIS season Wheaton and/or a draft pick wont match Sanders 2013 production? Maybe maybe not, but is that any reason to overpay for Sanders services? I think over the long haul there is a very good chance that Wheaton or an early draft pick at WR will eclipse Sanders mediocre numbers over his 4yr tenure

  • steeltown

    I just remember two maybe three times when Ben threw an INT or someone fumbled he almost immediately threw a fit on the field before the play had even ended, instead of trying to make the tackle on the ball carrier, the Chicago and Minnesota games come to mind

  • WIINGY

    He’s been solid, but it’s time to move on. Wheaton will be as good or better.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    And I don’t want him back at any price. Think about what you just said. Add in the mix Moye, who might put on 10-15 lbs and become better, more solid and a RZ target. Those 3rd round WR’s they always find are likely to be a big upgrade over Sanders. I simply donl;t like the fact that he whines and often he is the culprit. Come up with a few big catches when called upon and I would think about this in a totally different light.

    Time to move on.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Wrong. Wheaton alone will scare the crap out of the secondary with his speed and make a bunch more plays than Sanders ever has. Just wait and see. He is much more explosive. Also much more football smart.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Exactly.

  • treeher

    And my gut is that he is much more mature.

  • treeher

    See Steeltown’s comments, and I can think of some others where he didn’t play to the whistle. There were times he was open and Ben didn’t get him the ball, for sure, but you gotta play through that. Ben never developed the chemistry with him that he has with other receivers.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    He’s not perfect, but there is production and there is still some upside. I think there is a value for that. The Chicago and Minnesota examples were inexcusable brain lapses, more than effort problems.

    I don’t see Wheaton catching 60 balls this year. I could more easily see Sanders catching 80.

  • Richard Edlin

    The front office has signalled that we’re drafting a WR high in the draft … with Brown (1), the new signing (2-3), and Wheaton (3-4) in place, we can afford to resign *either* Cotchery or Sanders as our 2-4th WR and despite being much older, I’d prefer Cotchery for 2014.

    On a head to head comparison he’s cheaper and more reliable than Sanders. What’s not to like at $2.5-3 for a 2 year contract? As far as minimum contracts go, is it worth the risk that another team notices that Cotchery is a good stopgap role and signs him? Any other option we have is likely to cost us a lot more and provide less.

  • alex

    poor taste no doubt for such a class guy

  • Douglas Andrews

    He seemed like a natural from day 1. Wish Ryan the best he’s been a good player for us.

  • sean mcmartin

    Sanders needs to go. He is not clutch and not good at using his body to shield and catch. The big mistake was not taking a third rounder for him last season. time for the dumb money crew to be dissolved. Steelers never have valued the WR position. Except for ward. and hopefully AB.
    Cotchery is a good WR that can catch and block. Sign Cotchery..

  • AndyR34

    My argument was for this season only…and I was not advocating over-paying Sanders…or anyone else. However, the automatic assumption that Wheaton or any new draft choice will have superior production to Sanders is not typical for Steeler WR’s drafted after the first round…A.Brown being an obvious exception. So to base any decision on Sanders on the fact that his production will be readily replaced is fantasy. Over a period of the next 4 years we can, of course, hope that two relatively high draft choices will do better. But hope is NOT what wins play-off games…which is what we aspire to do.

  • steeltown

    I see your point, but I think with a healthy Miller in the lineup, 2nd yr players like Bell and Wheaton and a return of Cotchery they should be able to make up for the loss of Sanders IMO