Prior the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert weighed in with his thoughts on the then-upcoming free agency signed period during a radio interview and at that time he speculated that it 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.”
Colbert was spot on with his speculation. On Friday, the Steelers signed their fifth outside free agent of the offseason in former New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount and that should pretty much put the wraps on the higher profile Steelers 2014 free agent signings for this offseason.
Dating back to March 11, the Steelers have indeed tackled their depth needs in addition to adding a starter as safety Mike Mitchell, defensive lineman Cam Thomas, wide receiver Lance Moore, linebacker Arthur Moats and Blount were all signed to the roster. In addition to those outside free agents, center Cody Wallace, safety Will Allen, long snapper Greg Warren, tackle Guy Whimper and tight end Michael Palmer were all re-signed.
The last time the Steelers signed four unrestricted free agents from other teams was in 2010 when wide receiver Arnaz Battle, tackle Jonathan Scott, safety Will Allen and linebacker Larry Foote were all signed. However, the difference between those free agent signings and the ones that happened this offseason is that the four in 2010 all took place in May, while the four unrestricted player signings that took place this offseason all happened in March.
While Moore was technically a street free agent following his release from the New Orleans Saints, he was high profile enough to count as a fifth. The good thing about his signing, however, is that it will not in the compensatory formula next offseason.
While we don’t have the exact base salary breakdown of the contract signed on Friday by Blount, we know enough of the numbers to know that the contract of linebacker Lawrence Timmons didn’t require restructuring to accommodate the running back. In other words, Colbert was very responsible with future cap dollars over the course of the last few weeks.
The Steelers are currently right up against the $133 million salary cap number, but they’ll get an additional $8 million in cap space come June 2 when the release of linebacker LaMarr Woodley officially comes off the books. Until then, Colbert will continue to monitor the remaining unsigned free agents to see if any can be added for a minimum salary if he believes a certain player will improve the roster.
For the most part, however, Colbert’s job is now done as it relates to free agency and he will now turn his full attention to the draft.