While the Pittsburgh Steelers did make a move in free agency yesterday to help bolster the defensive line, it wasn’t the move that many were hoping they would make. Rather than coming to an agreement with free agent defensive end candidate Alex Carrington, the Steelers signed Cam Thomas.
Thomas, a former San Diego Charger, was brought in to fill the void, and the role, left behind with the departure of Al Woods. Woods was the utility man, the Chris Hoke of the defensive line last season.
In addition to taking regular reps in a defensive end rotation with Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, and Cameron Heyward, Woods also spelled nose tackle Steve McLendon at times, and ended up starting there twice toward the end of the season.
This is likely the role Thomas will fill in Pittsburgh, though he is more of a nose tackle than an end. He probably isn’t much of a threat to win a starting job, but his $1.5 million cap charge is not much problem either.
The NFL Players Association had the Steelers at approximately $5.25 million under the cap entering the day, which is after the five-year, $25 million contract given to free safety Mike Mitchell. The other recent signings moved the needle less than $1 million combined.
Factoring in displacement, the Thomas signing should still leave the Steelers with almost $3.5 million in cap space by the Rule of 51.
That should be more than enough room to get a deal done with Carrington, who according to Ian Rapoport had a good meeting with the Steelers and passed his physical, despite leaving the facility without a contract.
If Rapoport is indeed accurate in his account and that the sides will continue to talk, it should simply be a matter of whether or not they can work out a mutually agreeable value amount for his services.
Hood and Woods seemingly placed themselves out of the range that the Steelers were willing to pay for what they believed they would get in return, which could help explain the apparent lack of effort for Pittsburgh to retain them.
With Woods’ less than 300 career snaps, $2.5 million per season over two years seems to be a bit rich. Meanwhile, it’s been evident all along that Hood was not an ideal scheme fit, but did his best to fit the required mold anyway. At $4 million per season over four years, however, the value wasn’t there.
Carrington, on the other hand, has the ideal size and seeming skills to potentially grow and flourish over time in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 scheme, although that conclusion is a far cry from being a given.
The bottom line is that I don’t believe the obstacle between the Steelers’ ability or inability to sign Carrington comes down to how they can fit his contract into their allotted cap space, as they still have over $4 million available to them before inheriting another $8 million in June. It’s not about the cap; this time, it’s about the cash.