Fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers should be pretty excited on this Sunday as the team has finally signed their first outside unrestricted free agent of the new league year in inside linebacker Jon Bostic, a former second-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears, who has since played for the New England Patriots, Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts. While we don’t yet know the exact numbers related to the two-year contract that Bostic signed Sunday with the Steelers, it’s a good bet that deal looks somewhat similar to the one cornerback Coty Sensabaugh signed nearly one full year ago. In short, his 2018 salary cap charge should be very affordable.
So, what does the Sunday signing of Bostic mean to the Steelers moving forward into the rest of the offseason? Let me attempt to answer that question for you.
For starters, the fact that the Steelers signed a budget free agent inside linebacker early in the new league year isn’t overly surprising. In fact, it would of been more of a surprise had the Steelers not signed a starter-capable inside linebacker ahead of the draft as the team needed to do just that after losing starting inside linebacker Ryan Shazier indefinitely to a serious spinal injury last season. Bostic will now be expected to compete for the starting mack linebacker position alongside Vince Williams during training camp and the preseason.
The addition of Bostic on a two-year contract also has virtually no bearing whatsoever on what the Steelers might ultimately do during the early rounds of this year’s draft. However, his addition will now allow Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert to not reach for an inside linebacker prospect, who the team will ultimately hope can compete for the starting job at some point during his rookie season.
Remember, Colbert said during this year’s scouting combine that he doesn’t believe that this year’s off-the-ball inside linebacker class includes a lot of impactful players so it won’t be totally out of the question to see the team not draft one until either round-two or round-three. Even if the Steelers do draft an inside linebacker in the first round, Bostic’s contract should be cheap enough to warrant him possibly becoming a backup at any point during the 2018 season.
While Bostic wasn’t asked to play much on special teams in 2017 with the Colts, he did do a lot of that during his first three seasons in the NFL with both the Bears and Patriots. In short, should Bostic eventually not be the Steelers staring inside linebacker for whatever reason in 2018, he should still be a quality backup and core special teams player at the very least. Remember, he’ll turn just 27 years of age in May and he really doesn’t have a lot of mileage on him right now.
The Steelers signing of Bostic also now probably means that you can totally forget about veteran inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons being brought back for a second tour of duty in Pittsburgh. Timmons, who was released recently by the Miami Dolphins after just one season, might stay unemployed for quite a while now.
I wrote about how the Steelers were likely to address the inside linebacker during free agency back in late January and while I didn’t name Bostic in that post, he’s exactly the kind of addition I had in mind. As I pointed out in that post, Colbert’s modus operandi to date has been to fill known holes at key lacking positions during free agency with budget free agents so that he can leave his options somewhat open during the draft. The addition of Bostic is a classic Colbert addition and now we’ll wait and see which inside linebacker they’ll ultimately add during the draft and in what round.
Several will speculate that the Steelers will now turn their collective attention to signing a budget free agent safety and while that might ultimately be the case, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise if that doesn’t ultimately happen. With that said, the free agent safety market is off to a rough start this year and perhaps that will result in Colbert finding a bargain similar to that of Bostic and thus still not prevent him from addressing that position early during the draft along with inside linebacker.