2017 Offseason Questions: Is There Still Time For A Mid-Level FA Signing?


The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: Is there time still for the Steelers to make the mid-level free agent signing so many in the fan base are looking for?

We are closing in on the conclusion of the second full week of free agency and the Steelers have only just now added to their haul of a whopping one-year minimum contract for a wide receiver with a similar deal for a running back and a two-year deal worth likely not much more for a cornerback. Today perhaps they add a deal slightly more substantial than that for some meat on the defensive line.


These are quality signings in terms of filling out important areas of vulnerability in terms of the depth chart in addition to taking some needs off of their draft board, but none of these players are going to be in the starting lineup—except for Knile Davis at kick returner presumably—and so will not be said so much to directly improve their on-field product on a week-to-week basis.

The Steelers came into this free agency period with a good chunk more money than they normally would have and seemingly tried their damnedest to spend it on a couple of cornerbacks, and then an inside linebacker, but they were unable to put ink to paper on any of those deals.

Nearing two weeks into free agency, however, there aren’t a ton of big or notable names still floating around on the free agency market, so if the team is going to make their $5 million a year signing, one would think it would have to come soon before the well is completely dry.

Who is even left on the market? Zach Brown seems to be one of the few left who might be targeted for a decent-sized contract that the Steelers would even conceivably entertain, and yet I’m personally at the point in which I feel it’s just time to move on from the inside linebacker position.

What other names are out there on the market that would command a decent contract that you want the Steelers to take a look at?

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Douglas Andrews

    You might be right about the ILB position. Makes you wonder when a guy like Brown is still out there if he’s pricing himself out of the market. If that’s the case I say wait on the draft for a VW backup.

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  • Steelers12

    Seems none of the players got the contract they wanted, CBA is garbage

  • Steelers12

    Revis I wouldn’t mind

  • falconsaftey43

    It’s bee a weird FA period with a ton of guys signing 1 year contracts, even some of the higher priced guys. I’d be interested in John Hankins. He went out looking for $10M and hasn’t found it. Giants supposedly offered him something like $4M/y, I’d be good with $4-5M/y for him. Give you a really good group of 4 DL.

  • steelburg

    4 or 5 million to be a back up to Hargrave and play less then 40 percent of the snaps?

  • falconsaftey43

    I envision it more of 4 man rotation. Heyward, Tuitt, Hargrave, Hankins all getting a fairly even number of snaps, keep everyone fresh and make them all that much better. And yeah, I’d pay the $4-5M for that. Would make the DL an incredible strength, and he’s one of the few quality players out there worth bringing in.

  • steelburg

    This move probably won’t happen but I wouldn’t mind us making a small upgrade by dumping Mitchell and adding T.J. McDonald at safety. Before he got to the Panthers Mitchell had been in the NFL for 4 years and had only started 9 games. McDonald has 53 career starts at the end of his 4 years in the NFL. that’s a huge difference in experience. Mitchell now has 71 career starts to McDonald’s 53 and Mitchell has been in the NFL 4 more years than McDonald. I think McDonald would be the player they thought they were getting in Mitchell a few years back. This move most likely won’t happen but the longer McDonald sits on the market the cheaper his price tag should be.

  • Boots

    Well I’ve said a few times Jared Odrick and Tyson Jackson. If his neck checks out Aaron Williams could be an option as the dime DB we’ve tried to find.

  • WreckIess

    There really aren’t any FAs that I’m hoping they sign and I don’t really expect them to sign many more. Even the signings from yesterday were a surprise. I liked them, but they were definitely surprising.

    Plus side is that we’ll have a pretty decent about of cap space next season too. That’ll make Shazier and maybe even Martavis’s contract negotiations go a lot smoother (even though Martavis has probably literally burned all of his leverage away at this point.

  • falconsaftey43

    McDonald is an interesting name. I haven’t watched the Rams much to know how good he is, but would seem to profile as a guy that could fill the “hybrid” defender role.

  • Rob

    Picking up Erik Walden would be my choice to split with James, as insurance on our 38 year old iron man, while our draftee gets acclimated. Robey-Coleman especially, still remains an attractive option too.

    Honorable mention: Elvis Dummervil, Darrelle Revis, and don’t kill me, Colin Kaepernick.

  • J Man

    Gerald Hodges is another ILB option, but I think he’s in the same boat as Z Brown & is asking more than teams are willing to pay. Also heard Brown’s ‘attitude’ has turned off some teams. If true, I’d rather look into Hodges if he has the right mindset for the team. Still rather have an established pro at ILB instead of a rookie going thru OTJ training.

  • Douglas Andrews

    The players agreed to it

  • steelburg

    In theory I think that’s a good idea but why not just pay a guy like Tyson Alualu a little less and add him to the rotation. Even if you are rotating guys you still want Tuitt and Hayward in about 80-85 percent of the time. We now have Hargrave to work as a back up behind those 2 so that eats into that 15-20 percent also. 4-5 million is just a lot to pay a guy who isn’t going to start and play a ton of snaps IMO.

  • steelburg

    I was think about that also. I am curious to see if they take that role serious this year and actually invest in it via the draft or free agency.

  • steelburg

    No matter how you change the CBA you can’t make teams over spend for mediocre talent. These owners have learned from watching the NBA. Somebody like Timofey Mozgov who signed with the Lakers is making 16 million a year and he is averaging 7.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 0.8 assists a game. He signed a 4 year 64 million dollar contract he was a full time bench warmer for the Cavs last year so his numbers were worse then that when they signed him to that deal. There are deals like that all over the NBA, the NFL was definitely watching and most teams aren’t willing to do that.

  • Steelers12

    Timofey Mozgov should be arrested for robbery damn that was a dumb contract and i am a lakers fan

  • Steelers12

    yep D. Smith got broke off on the side LOL

  • falconsaftey43

    It’s a balance. Ideally, I want Tuitt/Heyward at about 70%. An even 4 man rotation gets you to about 60% for everyone. As we’ve seen in the past, unless the DL depth is exceptional, they wont rotate. I think a guy like Alualu (or bringing back Matthews) is a pure injury sub player, not someone who would actually rotate. I’m also just looking for cost vs. player quality. I think $4-5M is a pretty good deal for the level of player Hankins is. Would I rather spend $6-7M for a quality starting CB, of course, but that guy’s not out there.

  • LucasY59

    I thought about Williams as well, but I think his playing days are over

  • RickM

    Yes there’s time; but they aren’t interested in doing it. If you don’t come cheap, there’s no need for any quality, cost-reasonable applicants to apply. Not going to get into a debate about it. The 2017 FA signing facts speak for themselves.

    A good football team is relying exclusively on the draft to genuinely upgrade at starter or depth. They did exceptionally well in the draft last year. Let’s just hope for a repeat.

  • LucasY59

    I believe the Rams used Barron as the Hybrid and McDonald as the FS

    I can see the Steelers drafting a Safety this yr, but doubt they would bring in a FA, Mitchell is a Tomlin guy and I would bet that if they did sign McDonald that he would sit on the bench like most of the other outside DBs the team has brought in

  • LucasY59

    I think Hawkins is a decent player, but that signing would look way too similar to the scam thomas one (except more expensive) unless they sign a DL that can rush the passer I doubt that player will get any snaps

  • LucasY59

    Matakevich is the VW backup, if they get a ILB its a replacement / rotational nickel backer that can cover on passing downs

  • LucasY59

    Unless the mid level FA is willing to lower their asking price, it seems unlikely, but since it is getting into the 3rd week of FA soon I think the players still available will be willing to negotiate some more (if they dont sign soon there is a chance they have to wait till after the draft and then their value could really drop or they wont get signed at all)

  • Douglas Andrews

    I’m not so sure the Steelers are sold on Matakevich as a backup. It wouldnt surprise me to see them draft an ILB early in the draft. The rotational nickel backer should be the backup ILB and that’s not Tyler.

  • LucasY59

    guess you have a different definition of Backup than me, Tyler is a Buck ILB depth player behind VW (who is the presumed starter)

    A rotational (Nickel) guy is most likely the Mack depth player behind Shazier

    there is need for depth behind Ryan as well as a need for a LB that can come in on passing downs, so I agree they should draft a LB to do those things

  • falconsaftey43

    Hawkins did have 7 sacks in ’14 and 3 this past year. He’s got some decent rush ability. WAY better player than Thomas ever was.

  • falconsaftey43

    Yeah Barron is their hybrid guy, I was just going by his size profile 6’2″ 220 lbs. I admittedly haven’t seen him play much in the NFL. I don’t think they have anything against “outside” DBs (Mitchell and Cockrell were outside guys after all, so was McCain and Blake) just that the other guys they brought in weren’t any good (Gilbert, Boykin).

  • LucasY59

    I agree he is better, but would still be worried he collects a check from the bench if he was signed

  • LucasY59

    I guess if they bring him in as a FA there is a better chance that he is a guy Coach T likes (which was my main point with outside players) I still see it hard to supplant MM since he is a guy Tomlin seems to really like

  • Boots

    I’m afraid they might be too, but if his neck checked out could be a bargain for a year or two.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Alualu

  • LucasY59

    If his neck checked out the Bills wouldnt cut him

  • RickM

    Mid-level is around $5 M a year, the contracts that Green and Mitchell both got. I like the Alaulu signing and it’s a step up from the previous signings. But ut my guess is he got between $2.5M and $3M. But we’ll soon find out.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Was the Giants’ offer really that low? That’s interesting, I haven’t seen any number floated out other than his exorbitant asking price.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I get where you’re coming from. I’m just curious if you have any mid-level free agents in mind who are still on the market other than Zach Brown that would fit the Steelers. I’m struggling to come up with some viable candidates, and not for a lack of desire.

  • RickM

    I agree that there probably isn’t much left now. I don’t know what the deal with Brown is. I see he changed agents this morning so I guess he’s unhappy with how negotiations have gone. I just know little about him other than his stats. You’d think if we were interested we would have made contact by now. He seems to have struck out in Oakland and Miami. I guess he’s over-valuing himself.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yeah, that seems to be the case with several players this year, especially if you include those who signed ‘prove it’ deals in passing up better-value multi-year offers.

  • steelburg

    Lol

  • RickM

    Rumors do tend to float around, but I think the Giants have been pretty tight-lipped about their offer. As said, his agent wanted $10 M and so far no one has topped the Giants’ offer. My guess is he re-signs with the Giants for $6M or so, tops $7M.

  • steelburg

    It’s just not how the team operates. And typically on any team when a guy is getting 4 million or more a year he is a starter. It’s hard for me to see them paying a guy starter money to be a back up. I happen to like the way they have been doing it the past few years and Tyson Alualu is without a doubt the best back up player that they have had at DR in a while. If they went with your route I would much rather them draft another defensive lineman some where in the 3rd round that way we wouldn’t be paying the back up 4 or 5 million a year.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Yes i do have different definition than you do. If VW remains the starter I highly doubt Tyler plays a considerable role as a backup. He was a great tackler in college and he’s shown that in the NFL but he’s so limited that teams will expose him particular in the run game running away form him as well as in the passing game. Honestly I really think the Steelers will draft an ILB pretty early and they may be able to reach a deal with one of the few FA ILB’S left out there. Either way I think either guy they bring in pushes Tyler to more of a ST’s role. As for the Nickel rotational guy. I’d really like to see them bring in a big safety/hybrid LB guy to fill that role.

  • Boots

    That’s probably true but what can I say? I’m a tire kicker! Lol

  • Darth Blount 47

    I would guess he just ends back up in Buffalo.

  • Darth Blount 47

    I wouldn’t mind seeing if Walden or Revis has anything left or not. I tried making the case from Kap a month ago or so. Lukewarm interests from Steeler Nation, at best, lol. And somewhat understandably so.

  • RickM

    Supposedly Miami has an offer into him and they have called him 12 times. They want Brown as their strong-side LB, Timmons in the middle, and Alonso on the weak-side. It’s going to all boil down to who (Miami or Buffalo) offers the most money. I agree with your prediction though.