This is a topic that I have been toying with for a bit now during the offseason, and it obviously hinges a fair bit on what the Pittsburgh Steelers decide to do with James Harrison and during the draft, but I can’t help but wonder about the job security about veteran outside linebacker Arthur Moats, who is entering his fourth season with the team.
To recap his situation very quickly, Moats currently finds himself roughly fifth on the depth chart at outside linebacker before we hit free agency, but that is expected to change since the Steelers are not anticipated to work to re-sign Jarvis Jones.
It is expected that they will retain Harrison, and the 38-year-old reportedly wants a two-year contract. The Steelers would likely leave him in the starting lineup for the time being, and Bud Dupree already assumed full-time duties when he returned from injured reserve last year.
Prior to Dupree returning, however, Moats already fell behind on the depth chart to second-year outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo, who replaced the veteran in the starting lineup in the sixth game of the season against the Dolphins. The former sixth-round pick remained in the starting lineup even after Dupree returned initially, and Moats started to find himself on the bench.
If the Steelers are already bringing Harrison, Dupree, and Chickillo back for the 2017 season, that leaves Moats in a position in which he is at best the fourth outside linebacker, a season after the coaching staff stated their intention to move away from the rotational duties that they have seen for most of the past two seasons due to insufficient talent at the top of the depth chart.
The real concern for Moats, however, is not necessarily his position in the pecking order, but rather the fact that the decrease in his role is incongruous with his salary. He is scheduled to earn a base salary of $2.25 million in 2017. The Steelers would save the entirety of that value if they should choose to release him.
The likelihood of that occurring would increase substantially if the Steelers end up drafting an outside linebacker in the first round as a player who will immediately serve as a reserve, if not a rotational player, behind Harrison, as a succession plan would obviously seem to be in the cards at the right outside linebacker spot.
Moats himself will be turning 29 in March during the first week of free agency, so he is not exactly the youngest of the bunch. But he is extremely well-liked among his teammates on a personal level, and I expect that holds true for the rest of the organization as well.
He is a great team player who is willing to work on special teams as well, and is capable of playing on either side of the field in any capacity in terms of workload. He is a good player who is capable. But the simple question is, if he is fifth on the depth chart, will the team balk at paying him over $2 million?