Steelers 2007 Free Agency Timeline Of Alan Faneca Contract Talks

There seems to be several misunderstandings out there of the timeline of events that eventually led to the Steelers not re-signing guard Alan Faneca and letting him walk following the 2007 season. I wrote a few days ago that it was a good decision based on the money wanted by Faneca and the attitude he had.

I have assembled a timeline of the offseason prior to the start of the 2007 season below so everyone has a firm grasp of how those events transpired. It should be noted and no surprise that the Steelers like to extend their potential free agents the offseason before they are to enter the final year of their current contract and do not like to do contracts once the season begins. This has been the Steeler way for some time now.

Following the 2006 season the Steelers had to first endure the resignation of head coach Bill Cowher and hire Mike Tomlin to replace him. Then they had to go about their business of prioritizing their free agents and indeed started with Faneca as early as late February at the NFL Combine. Also remember that the Steelers were right up against the salary cap from the get go.

Here is the timeline of the events leading up to the start of the 2007 season along with my thoughts, story snippets and links to the full articles.

Here is the first look following the 2006 season and you can see what the Steelers were up against salary wise

January 05, 2007 – Initial Look At The Steelers Upcoming Offseason

The player who counted the most against the Steelers\’ salary cap in 2006 was not quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, nor Pro Bowl members Faneca, Casey Hampton or Troy Polamalu. It was left tackle Marvel Smith at $6.6 million, including a $4.4 million salary and a pro-rated portion of his signing bonuses. Next was center Jeff Hartings at nearly $6.5 million. Hartings has a year left on his contract, but he may retire; if he does, it would save $3.6 million in salary-cap room for the Steelers.

Other players with salary-cap values of more than $5 million last season were Faneca ($5.8 million), Hines Ward ($5.75 million) and Joey Porter ($5.23 million).

The final year of Porter\’s contract next season calls for him to have the highest salary-cap figure at $6.6 million. That includes a $4 million salary and a $1 million roster bonus payable in March.

Among the more intriguing salary-cap costs next season is cornerback Ike Taylor\’s. He received a new contract this season for $22.5 million over five years that paid a $6.4 million signing bonus. By the final third of the season, however, he was benched. His cap value of $1,588,000 this season jumps to nearly $5 million next season — reflecting a jump in salary of about $2.8 million. That\’s a lot of cap room for someone who does not start, although he likely will get a chance to win back his job next summer.

Not a great start by Faneca in the eyes of the Steelers organization to criticize the hiring of Tomlin when neither Grimm or Whisenhunt got the job. Somethings are just better off not said, especially when you are looking for a big extension.

February 13, 2007 – Faneca Unhappy With Tomlin Hire

Alan Faneca, a nine-year starter, displayed disappointment over the weekend that neither of the two candidates on the staff, Russ Grimm or Ken Whisenhunt, were hired to replace Bill Cowher when he resigned. Faneca has not yet met with Tomlin, who has talked individually with more than half of the players on the roster.

“I wanted Russ to get the job,” Faneca said from Honolulu, where the Pro Bowl was played Saturday night. “It\’s a guy we know, and a guy I\’m experienced with. I hoped Russ would get that opportunity, but it didn\’t work out.

Kevin Colbert weighs in his thoughts on the free agents prior to the NFL Combine and you can see the roster bonuses that are coming and the decisions that Colbert and the Steelers will be faced with.

February 15, 2007 – Colbert Gives Initial Thoughts On Free Agents

“We haven\’t made any decision on anybody not being here or even being here. As we go through this thing and we get closer — like that … and you look at what\’s going to be available and compare it to what you have — is there somewhere we can upgrade either through an exchange of players or a combination of players? Those are the things we\’re going to be doing, along with the draft and the cap all kind of mixed in together.”

The other five players due roster bonuses in March are Alan Faneca ($1 million), Aaron Smith ($1 million), Ike Taylor ($300,000), Marvel Smith ($250,000) and Willie Parker ($250,000).

Colbert said a team\’s priorities sometimes shift as they wade into free agency.

“No one really knows where it goes because once you start talking to a player then maybe you decide you really want that player, and then all of a sudden you decide I need more cap room to afford that player. So how do you get that cap room? That may dictate your decisions.”

It is NFL Combine time and talks have started with several Steelers players who are entering the final year under contract. Once again you can see how little room they have to play with salary cap wise.

February 27, 2007 – Steelers Start Talks With Faneca, Simmons, Polamalu, Porter, Haggans, Smith & Kreider

The Steelers have started preliminary talks with seven players who will be free agents after the 2007 season.

Colbert said discussions with representatives of guards Alan Faneca and Kendall Simmons, safety Troy Polamalu, linebackers Joey Porter and Clark Haggans, defensive end Aaron Smith and fullback Dan Kreider will determine where each side stands in regard to working out a contract extension and how feasible it is.

The Steelers are not believed to have much room under the salary cap — it is projected at $109 million this season — but they could free up money for free agency in a number of ways, including agreeing to contract extensions with some of the aforementioned veterans.

Defensive end Aaron Smith gets extended first as the Steelers rip up the final year of his old deal to get instant cap relief initially with the new cap friendly contract. As you can see, Smith had to get done to start freeing up more cap space.

February 28, 2007 – Steelers Extend Aaron Smith & Get Cap Relief

Aaron Smith spent Tuesday moving into a new house. There also was the matter of agreeing to a new contract with the Steelers, one that could make him the highest-paid defensive player in team history.

Smith, who had a year remaining on his previous contract, agreed to a new deal that spans five years and is worth $25 million.

His signing bonus, which is the only part of NFL player contracts that are guaranteed, is believed to be $8 million.

Joey Porter and Verron Haynes are cut to free up another $6.065 million of cap room as the Steelers are still pressed to find ways to get under the salary cap.

March 1, 2007 – Steelers Cut Porter, Haynes To Save More Cap Money

After two weeks of internal debate, the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to cut ties with one of their most recognized players — linebacker Joey Porter.

Porter and running back Verron Haynes were released Thursday as the Steelers got under the salary cap.

Porter was entering the final year of his contract, and there weren\’t plans to sign him to an extension. Porter was scheduled to make $5.225 million this season. His release, and Haynes\’, saves the Steelers $6.065 million of cap room.

The Steelers next course of action is to tender one year contracts to restricted free agents Max Starks and Brian St. Pierre. Both tenders total less than 2.75 million and both players are still very cuttable if they do not make the team without future dead money issues. Standard practice with restricted free agents with this move.

March 2, 2007 – Restricted Free Agents Starks & St. Pierre Tendered One Year Deals

Starks, who received a one-year contract tender of $1.85 million from the Steelers, would bring the team a first-round draft choice if they decline to match a contract he would sign with another team as a restricted free agent. “It shows me the Steelers have confidence in me and want to keep me,” Starks said. “I\’m optimistic about that because I want to stay in Pittsburgh. I would like to negotiate a long-term deal.” St. Pierre received a one-year tender of $850,000 and would bring the Steelers a fifth-round pick if he signed elsewhere and they did not match

Alan Faneca is paid his $1 million roster roster bonus with money saved by cutting Porter basically. They chose Faneca over Porter to no surprise.

March 03, 2007 – Faneca Paid Roster Bonus

The Steelers cut Porter five days before he was due a $1 million roster bonus, but they paid a $1 million roster bonus to guard Alan Faneca that came due yesterday as part of his $4,375,000 salary in the final year of his contract.

The Steelers needed to sign a free agent center because of the retirement of Jeff Hartings and the health of Chukky Okobi. Sure it ended up being a bad signing, but they needed a center. Mahan was later traded salary and all back to the Buccaneers.

March 11, 2007 – Steelers Sign Mahan Because Of Need At Center

Sean Mahan, a center-guard, signed a five-year, $17 million contract Saturday and became the first player this year the Steelers have added through free agency.

The deal includes a $4 million signing bonus.

Mahan played primarily at left guard last season for Tampa Bay, but the Steelers have signed him to compete with Chukky Okobi and possibly Kendall Simmons for the starting job at center.

Mahan, 26, said he is comfortable at all three interior line positions and has no preference as to where he plays.

Jeff Hartings, who had been a guard with the Detroit Lions before joining the Steelers in 2001, played in several Pro Bowls before retiring last month.

Rooney makes it known that Faneca and Polamalu are still top priority in his eyes and you can see that the recent free agent contracts given to Eric Steinbach and Derrick Dockery really raise the price tag on Faneca. Rooney admits that that the two sides are still way off. Also Faneca is absent from the OTA sessions.

March 26, 2007 – Rooney Says Getting Deals Done With Faneca & Polamalu Top Priority

Faneca did not show up last week for the start of offseason conditioning at the Steelers\’ South Side practice facility, fueling speculation about his long-term future with the team.

Rooney said that the Steelers and Faneca “still got a way to go” in terms of a contract extension, but he added that the perennial Pro Bowler\’s absence from the workouts, which are not mandatory, did not concern him.

One factor that may have complicated negotiations between Faneca and the Steelers is the kind of money guards have been fetching during the free-agent signing period.

Eric Steinbach and Derrick Dockery signed seven-year deals for $49.5 million and $49 million, respectively, and neither one has played in a Pro Bowl.

Rooney said getting deals done with Faneca and Polamalu are top priorities for the Steelers.

Only early May and Faneca has blown his stack and states he is done negotiating with the Steelers and wants to be traded. He goes on to say this will be his last season in Pittsburgh. I am sure this did not help with things moving forward.

May 11, 2007 – Faneca Says He Is Through Negotiating & Wants To Be Traded

Longtime star lineman Alan Faneca says he is through negotiating with the Pittsburgh Steelers, pushing them again Friday to trade him and promising he won\’t play for them past this season.

Faneca, an All-Pro left guard five times since 2001, reported to a three-day minicamp only because it is mandatory and he could be fined for not attending. He didn\’t threaten to sit out the season but made clear his unhappiness with a team that won the Super Bowl only 15 months ago.

“This will be my last year as a Pittsburgh Steeler,” Faneca said.

Faneca, a nine-season veteran widely regarded as one of the NFL\’s top offensive linemen, said the Steelers\’ only offer to him wouldn\’t have made him one of the NFL\’s 10 highest-paid guards. Faneca will make $4.375 million this season in the final year of a contract worth $25.6 million in 2002 but was subsequently renegotiated to help the Steelers get under the salary cap.

Faneca would like to be traded but is resigned with staying with Pittsburgh for another season.

“I\’ve been asking since February to trade me, to let me go,” Faneca said. “I\’ve done my piece. I\’ve done my time. I\’ve done everything I can for this organization. I\’ve lived and breathed Steeler football for nine years and gave them everything I\’ve had and helped them win a Super Bowl. In my mind, I\’ve earned the right to be treated fairly.”

Surprise, surprise. Faneca\’s agent Rick Smith does damage control and puts it back on the Steelers and the way they do business. Smith acknowledges the Steelers first offer in late February. Although Smith claims he could structure the deal to be cap friendly, the guaranteed money is still guaranteed money and that seems to be the hold-up. Sounds like he wants the Steelers to back load the deal, but based on the age of Faneca, the Steelers know that is not smart to do and likely will be setting up for some future dead money years should Faneca decline quickly. Classic agent speak here.

May 15, 2007 Agent For Faneca Does Damage Control Puts Blame On Steelers

“You can structure deals so many different ways to help your cap it\’s not even funny,” Smith said. “Don\’t let anybody for one second think this is salary-cap related. (Steelers business operations coordinator) Omar Khan is as good at his job as you have in this league. I\’ve been doing this a long time, and he and I could easily structure a deal that does whatever the Steelers need it to do cap-wise. This is a cash issue.”

The Steelers, Smith said, made an offer to Faneca about a week before the NFL scouting combine, which was held in late February.

Smith declined to say exactly what the offer was but said it was low enough that Faneca, a future Hall of Famer, would continue to be the 10th highest-paid guard in the league if he accepted it. Smith added that very little of the money the Steelers offered was guaranteed.

Smith admits to paying close attention to the money that was spent on offensive linemen during the offseason free agency signings. Not surprising, but you can see that he wants money in that range for Faneca.

May 23, 2007 – Smith Admits Watching Free Agency For Market Value Of Faneca

Faneca has a base salary of $3.375 million for 2007 and the team earlier this spring paid out a $1 million roster bonus he was due. The Steelers reportedly offered Faneca a long-term extension early in the spring, but agent Rick Smith said that, in light of some of the contracts signed by veteran free agents this year, the proposal fell shy of expectations.

One of the league\’s top in-line blockers, Faneca also publicly questioned the franchise\’s choice of Tomlin as the successor to former head coach Bill Cowher. He noted that he felt the job should have gone to offensive line coach Russ Grimm, who was a finalist for the position. Grimm subsequently left the Steelers join the staff of another former Pittsburgh assistant, Ken Whisenhunt, who is the Arizona Cardinals\’ new head coach.

The Steelers wait until late June to get Chris Hoke extended. This was a solid move with only a $1.5 million signing bonus involved. Very cap friendly moving forward.

June 22, 2007 – Chris Hoke Gets Extension

Guard Alan Faneca may be determined to leave the Steelers because of an inability to agree upon a contract extension, but nose tackle Chris Hoke has no such concerns.

Hoke was given a four-year, $6 million contract Thursday that includes a $1.5 million signing bonus. He was heading into the last year of his contract.

Faneca skips the first of two minicamp sessions and continues to voice his want to be traded. He works the second session and then says he will not be back until training camp.

June 25, 2007 – Faneca Boycotts First Of Two Minicamp Practices Still Wants Out

An angry Alan Faneca boycotted the first of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ two minicamp practices Saturday because of a comment made to him by management during a morning meeting, but returned for the second practice after talking briefly with new coach Mike Tomlin.

Faneca, the five-time All-Pro left guard, promised Friday this will be his final season in Pittsburgh after the two sides held only cursory offseason talks regarding a new contract. Faneca is in the final season of a contract that was initially worth about $25 million in 2002 but was subsequently renegotiated.

Still upset on Saturday, Faneca became angrier during the meeting with ownership — apparently, with team president Art Rooney II, the son of owner Dan Rooney. Faneca would not reveal what the remark was.

“It was something that was said,” Faneca said. “I’m just going to leave it at that.”

Asked whether he requested the meeting, or whether the Rooney family did so, Faneca said it was a little of both. But Faneca declined to tone down his comments made Friday, when asked again to be traded and called the Steelers unfair for making him play this season with no contract protection beyond it.

Faneca, a six-time Pro Bowl guard, preferred to skip the entire minicamp. He has a flight back to his offseason home after the final workout Sunday, and he doesn’t plan to return until training camp starts July 23. He will miss the post-minicamp voluntary team workouts that run until early June and, according to Tomlin, are highly important.

The Steelers waited all the way up until training camp to get Polamalu extended and it certainly seems they waited because they might have still had hopes in getting Faneca done.

July 23, 2007 – Steelers Extend Troy Polamalu

The Steelers agreed to a contract extension today with safety Troy Polamalu, assuring one of their best players will remain in Pittsburgh for a while longer.

The five-year, $33 million contract with the $15,375,000 in signing and roster bonuses he received from the Steelers yesterday makes him the highest-paid player in team history and the highest-paid safety in the NFL.

His signing bonus of $10,975,000 is the largest the Steelers have ever paid, topping the $9 million they gave Hines Ward two years ago.

A quick recap here of how defensive players get the money with the Steelers. Not a huge surprise here.

July 30, 2007 – Steelers History Of Paying Defensive Players

Since 2005, Steelers management has re-signed safety Troy Polamalu, defensive end Aaron Smith, cornerback Ike Taylor, nose tackle Casey Hampton and backup nose tackle Chris Hoke to contracts totaling $110 million with $39 million in bonus money.

Polamalu signed an extension worth $33 million on the first day of training camp. It\’s the largest contract in Steelers history.

Polamalu\’s deal topped the $24.5 million extension signed by Smith during the offseason.

Smith\’s deal topped the $23.75 million extension signed by Taylor last September.

Taylor\’s deal topped the $22.8 million extension signed by Hampton in 2005.

The contracts made Polamalu, Smith, Taylor and Hampton the highest paid at their positions in team history.

Hoke\’s extension is for $6 million and includes a $1.5 million bonus.

Look how long they waited to get Simmons done after it seems that they waited long enough for Faneca now that the season is about to start. They are resigned to the fact that Faneca will now walk and have to start moving forward with their offensive line plans.

September 3, 2007 – Steelers Extend Kendall Simmons

The Steelers addressed the uncertainty they had at guard beyond this season when they agreed to a four-year contract extension with Kendall Simmons.

The deal could be worth as much as $24 million over the next five years and includes a $7.85 million signing bonus.

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