Player: Sean Spence
Position: Inside Linebacker
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2017 Salary Cap Hit: $182,353
2017 Season Breakdown:
I suspect that the majority of us assumed the Steelers career of Sean Spence had ended two years ago. Really, many of us probably thought that it ended five and a half years ago when he tore up his knee in the preseason. While it took him two years, however, he did make it back onto the field to start his career.
As evidenced by the 2017 season, however, one wonders how much of a career he has left. While I will admit that I didn’t even bother watching his tape with the Colts, with whom he signed before he was released after a few games, nothing that he did back in Pittsburgh inspired confidence.
Spence was signed late in the season after Ryan Shazier suffered a severe spinal injury, and he was immediately worked into the starting lineup with Vince Williams, initially rotating with Arthur Moats and L.J. Fort. Tyler Matakevich had previously served as the top interior reserve but was dealing with a shoulder injury that required offseason surgery.
The Miami product’s greatest assets coming out of college were his diagnostic capabilities and his quickness. Through no fault of his own, he was robbed of much of the latter, but his skills in the former appeared to be fleeting.
I don’t want to cast his entire performance as bad, but truthfully, much of it was, and looked like a football player who had been off the field too long. He was slow reaching plays and struggled finishing the ones he did reach. He was exposed in particular in the playoff loss. His struggles, combined with Shazier’s absence, was the single-biggest catalyst for the bottom falling out on the run defense down the stretch.
Free Agency Outlook:
Well, while Spence may have already stated that he would like to return to the Steelers, there are certainly no guarantees that that will happen, and most would probably agree that it is more likely than not that won’t happen.
The Steelers still have Williams in the starting lineup, after all, and both Fort and Matakevich will be returning, which makes three inside linebackers on the depth chart, and I would suppose it is already taken as a given that the team will add at least one more body here, either in free agency or the draft, and quite possibly both.
While it is true that Spence has some rust to knock off when the Steelers initially brought him back, and even he admitted to that fact, his play against the Jaguars in the postseason left much to be desired, to say the least. I thought he played a solid game against the Browns, but that was his only ‘solid’ performance.
If the team does bring back Spence, it’s rather likely that it will be on a qualifying contract that may even include no signing bonus. He does play special teams, at least, not that they would make people any happier about him hypothetically being re-signed.