Kozora: 2017 Free Agency Updated Wishlist

I put out my initial free agency wishlist just over a month ago. But with the official start of 2017 hours away, it’s time to revisit that list and update now that the pool is much clearer. Some of the names are the ones from before and some, of course, are new.

Quarterback

Josh McCown – I’m still working under my personal impression that the team will sign Landry Jones a couple days into free agency once most of the QB jobs are taken up and Jones’ pockets are still empty. But there’s always the chance he moves on to somewhere else. It’s too risky to entrust the backup job to Zach Mettenberger or a draft pick in a Colbert-professed down rookie class.

McCown has reportedly gotten some looks from teams like the Dallas Cowboys so there is still a market for him. He’s only got a year or two left in the tank but is a veteran presence who has started, come off the bench, and basically been in every situation a QB could be. He’s still a surprisingly good athlete and when his game is good, which yes, is fleeting, it’s at a starters level.

Matt McGloin – Expected not to be retained by the Oakland Raiders who are rolling with Connor Cook. Has only started one game since his rookie year. Record is pretty lousy but he was on some ugly Raiders’ teams, too. Obvious Pennsylvania ties as a Scranton kid and Penn State grad. Not crazy over the idea but it makes sense.

Blaine Gabbert – The former first round bust had a mini-revival of his NFL career in San Francisco. Put up decent numbers in 2015 (63% completion, 10 TDs, 7 INTs) and even won three games. You’re not getting huge talent but you’re getting someone with experience and has dealt with pressure of being the face of a franchise, failing, and getting back on the horse.

Running Back

Benny Cunningham – Same rationale as before. Some time as a runner, most of it as a kick returner, and a good one as the latter. 27.1 career kick return average with a long of 102. Caught 93 passes and played 135 total special teams snaps, giving him value all over the place. An excellent choice to be the team’s #3 back.

Knile Davis – Ditto Davis as I have with Cunningham, though I like Cunnigham more. Davis should be cheaper and is a bigger back, more in the mold of what the team looks for. Averaged 27 yards per kick in his career and has three total touchdowns, including playoffs.

Defensive Line

Brandon Thompson – Nicknamed Yams, one of the few guys we were able to sign in our mock offseason failure yesterday. He’s a big run stuffer coming off injury. He and Javon Hargrave’s bubble butts will cause Heinz Field to shake. Like I also wrote yesterday, he’s someone on the cheap who should push Daniel McCullers for the backup spot.

Zach Kerr – Kerr is another squatty guy but more athletic and versatile than Thompson. Had 2.5 sacks in only 318 total snaps last year with the Indianapolis Colts so that probably works out to a pretty good per-sack average on passing opportunities. Can play the nose, play the three, and the 4i (where the base ends are lining up most often anyway in LeBeau’s scheme).

Off the field, he’s a Virginia Beach kid. You know Mike Tomlin loves those Hampton Roads peeps. This one wasn’t on my last list but makes a lot of sense.

Lawrence Guy – This one seems unlikely knowing Guy will want a bigger role than what the Steelers offer, especially when his and L.T. Walton’s skillsets seem to overlap. Guy shows more pass rush ability, he had 4.5 sacks two years ago, and played well in nearly 500 snaps for the Ravens. Steelers obviously know him well from his time in Baltimore.

Outside Linebacker

John Simon – Maybe one of the most likely targets when you try and connect the dots. A cheap price tag, an Ohio State alum, and someone the team brought in for a pre-draft visit before the draft, just as they did with Ladarius Green when he came out of UL-Lafayette. It’s insurance for Bud Dupree and a rotational piece if whatever rookie linebacker the Steelers select has trouble getting on the field.

Erik Walden – I floated the idea in the original list. He’s 31 years old but was super productive last year, finishing with 17 QB hits, 11 sacks, and three forced fumbles. Those are better stats than Julius Peppers and Nick Perry. His age should keep his market value down, too. It’s rare for the Steelers to go after players older than 30 but this might be the exception.

Cornerback

Captain Munnerlyn – He’s risen to the top of my list. Money could be an issue, he seems to want roughly $5 million per year, but if the market is a little chilly, that number will come down, especially for a contender like Pittsburgh. Should be able to win the slot job and though he’s small, he’s physical, especially in press coverage.

Morris Claiborne – This is a pretty pie in the sky idea but if the Steelers are going to go all-in on one position, I think they make a big splash somewhere, it’s probably cornerback. Claiborne has had trouble staying healthy but he’s arguably a top 25 cornerback when he’s healthy. He can play inside or out, does well in man coverage, and will support the run. Kevin Colbert surprised us with Mike Mitchell and Green. Maybe he has another trick up his sleeve.

Davon House – I didn’t study much of House but he was a really good corner two years ago with Jacksonville and had a lot of high moments with the Green Bay Packers. Maybe the Steelers can make something out of him as a lower cost option. At worst, he becomes the #3 CB behind Ross Cockrell and Artie Burns.

Kayvon Webster – Who I mentioned before as someone who can compete for the slot spot, though it’s 50/50 if he’ll win, and if he doesn’t, become a valuable special teamer. Also friends with Antonio Brown, which might help get the conversation going and/or close the deal (as Eric Weddle reportedly did with Tony Jefferson over in Baltimore).

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    The last guy we had made us whimper…(see what I did there)?

  • Darth Blount 47

    Love the Munnerlyn idea. I would like him, Amukamara, or my personal bank breaker… Logan Ryan.

    NEW ENGLAND just picked up Stephon Gilmore. Paying over 14 mill pr year. Pretty crazy for a team that is as notoriously a thrifty shopper as anyone.

    This means Logan Ryan and maybe even Hightower are almost assuredly gone I’d think.

  • Menace_501

    Nick Foles? back up QB

  • Darth Blount 47

    I wouldn’t be opposed to that at all.

  • Boots

    I think Jared Odrick could be a good addition for the right price. Connor Barwin was just released, too, and might be a worth a look to see what he’d be willing to play for.

  • Andrew

    I feel like we shouldn’t pay more than 3-4 million a season for any veteran this off season. Bring in cheap depth that can fill a role (MCain, Moats, Deangelo). Simon, McCown, House would be good signings.

  • steelburg

    I like 3 guys at CB that should be affordable IMO. Logan Ryan, Prince Amukamara, and Keyvon Webster in that order.

  • Sam Clonch

    Bengals lose Whitworth, probably going to lose Zeitler, Ravens likely to lose Brandon Williams, already lost out on Marshall and cut Dumerville. Ooof. Tough week outside Pittsburgh in the AFCN!

  • The Chin

    Conner Barwin just released. Anyone think he could fit at edge?

  • Douglas Andrews

    Like your list Alex. For some reason I really like Mo Claiborne. Health issues have been noted but he’s a talent when healthy. Maybe that keeps his asking price down. I’d also take McGloin hard to evaluate QB’s playing on bad football teams but he seems capable of being a #2.

  • Sam Clonch

    Think he’s much more a 4-3 DE, not a 3-4 OLB.

  • Shane Mitchell

    If we sign a DB I hope it is a guy that is an excellent tackler above all else, thats what we need to improve the secondary, we cant have a secondary full of guys that miss 20 plus tackles a piece every season, its ridiculous and not Steeler’s football. Who is the best tackler on this list thats who we should sign?

  • Sam Clonch

    Might give us more than Moats, but not going to be the future of the position. He’s only ever had 2 good seasons with 10+ sacks. Maybe for $3M a year or so, which I bet he wouldn’t accept.

  • Petherson Silveira

    Blaine Gabbert – The former first round bust had a mini-revival of his NFL career in San Francisco. Put up decent numbers in 2015 (63% completion, 10 TDs, 7 INTs) and even won three games. You’re not getting huge talent but you’re getting someone with experience and has dealt with pressure of being the face of a franchise, failing, and getting back on the horse.

    I would really like have him here. He is still young and has the tools. Maybe playing with a team that will sorround him with talent can make him florish.

  • RickM

    Wow, over $35M and over $13M guaranteed by the Rams to Whitworth at age 35. No wonder guys test the open market.

  • Cris de Campos

    I’ve thought Benny Cunningham would be a great piece for this team. I wish there was more news about who his agent is talking to.

  • Sam Clonch

    What about Case Keenum as backup QB? Young, starting experience, decent completion percentage. He could be serviceable with talent around him (unlike his situation in LA/STL).

  • Sam Clonch

    And the hits just keep on coming. No reunion for Torrey Smith and the Ravens, he’s headed to Philly. Guess they’re going to have to roll with Wallace and Perriman as the lead guys!

  • Petherson Silveira

    lolllll

  • ThatGuy

    Not on the list but Ryan is a good tackler.

  • tube517

    Thanks for the Virginia Beach shout out!!!! LOL

  • ThatGuy

    Off topic… nice Jeep.

  • LucasY59

    I think he will be in high demand from other teams = expensive = not a Steeler (but he would be better than Landry)

  • LucasY59

    New England just likes to take the good players from the other AFC Least teams so they can easily win the division and make the playoffs,

    I think its a mistake they keep letting their good young Defensive players go