Ever since Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert came on board prior to the start of the 2000 season, the organization hasn’t generally been very active in free agency outside of signing their own free agents. I have been illustrating this recently in a series of post dedicated to the topic. However, in a Wednesday afternoon interview on ESPN 970, Colbert said he thinks this offseason could be different from the norm.
“I think there’s a possibility we could be more active in the free agency market this year than we have in the past,” started Colbert. “Not only from an availability standpoint or from a depth requirement standpoint, but also from a cap situation that we haven’t been able to some types of things in the past, because quite honestly we had more work to do just to get into compliance.
“So it’s a different group finishing this season than it has been in the past. It’s probably a throw back to the early 2000′s when we were trying to put it together. At that point, we were a little more active in free agency with a James Farrior and a Jeff Hartings, and so on and so forth. So it’s kind of cyclical, but I think we could more active in free agency, but again, the market will dictate that and how much we’re able to get in compliance with the cap, or get under the cap, will dictate how much we’ll be able to add from the outside.”
Currently, the Steelers are roughly $10-12 million over the cap depending on where the final per team 2014 number comes in at. That number, as daunting as it might look, will go away fast as the expected release of tackle Levi Brown will clear $6.25 million right off the bat. If the contracts of wide receiver Antonio Brown and linebacker Lawrence Timmons are restructured between now and the start of the new league year, the Steelers will easily be in compliance. In addition, Colbert as said recently that a few contract terminations could be on tap as well and that of course will clear additional cap space.
Way back in 2000, the Steelers signed four unrestricted free agents from outside the organization during the prime signing period and another three the following offseason. In the offseason leading up to the 2004 season, Colbert and company signed four unrestricted free agents from outside the organization. While I would be surprised if we saw that kind of movement this offseason, Colbert certainly makes it sound like at least two or three might be added. If he does, however, he of course won’t break the bank and overpay in the process.
Regardless of what does or doesn’t happen in regards to signing other team’s free agents this offseason, Colbert also said he expects some things won’t change.
“Generally, the philosophy will stay the same. Keep your own if at all possible and get the right draft picks,” he said.