History Of Steelers Big Name Free Agent Losses Under Kevin Colbert

I posted the other day about the free agents that the Pittsburgh Steelers have signed from other teams since Kevin Colbert took over in 2000 and now we will look at the notable free agent players that were signed away under the Colbert watch dating back to 2000. I use the word notable only in the sense of big named players at the time. Just because they were big names does not mean they were crucial loses at the time.

The biggest names that still had a lot to give their new teams were of course Plaxico Burress, Chris Hope, Alan Faneca, Mike Vrabel, Wayne Gandy and Carlos Emmons. Burress and Hope are of course still playing while Faneca retired after the 2010 season. Vrabel of course went on to win multiple Super Bowls with the New England Patriots and Emmons was part of a few playoff teams himself since his exit from the Steel City.

Despite allowing Burress to walk off in 2005 to the New York Giants on a six-year, $25 million contract, the Steelers still went on to win the Super Bowl that season with wide receivers Hines Ward, Antwaan Randle El and Cedrick Wilson. They also drafted Santonio Holmes in the draft that followed.

Hope was a causality of the Steelers 2005 Super Bowl success as he signed a six-year deal worth more than $20 million with the Tennessee Titans and Colbert in turn signed then free agent Ryan Clark to a four-year, $7 million contract to replace him. Not a bad move at all.

The Steelers divorce with Faneca is well documented, and while it was tough to see him walk in 2008, the Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl that season with Chris Kemoeatu at left guard.

Vrabel was not regarded as a big loss at the time he was allowed to walk and in fact he didn\’t start a game during his 4 years in Pittsburgh. At the time the Steelers had enough depth at outside linebacker to absorb the loss. The name of Joey Porter should ring a bell as he also helped ease the loss of Emmons as well a year earlier.

In 2002 it was thought that the Steelers should have worked harder to retain Earl Holmes, but that loss was turned immediately into James Farrior, a former first round pick that the New York Jets had given up on. Farrior is by far the best free agent signing that Colbert has had during his time in Pittsburgh.

Kendrell Bell is another big name linebacker that the Steelers allowed to walk and it was mostly because of his injury problems. He signed a seven-year, $35 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs that included $10 million in guarantees and he would go on to start just 28 games over the course of the next 3 seasons. The Steelers replaced him with Larry Foote, who is still on the roster today. Foote even left for one season himself via free agency in 2009.

Wayne Gandy was a tough loss, but the age factor was one that the Steelers did not want to gamble on as he signed a six-year, $30 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. He wound up playing three seasons in New Orleans before he was traded to the Atlanta Falcons. He started 69 games after leaving Pittsburgh.

The Steelers entered the 2012 free agency period with Mike Wallace being the big named free agent that they could possibly lose. The difference with Wallace, compared to the other free agents above, is that he is of the restricted variety and would cost another team not only a lucrative, front loaded contract, but also a first round draft pick to sign him away. Six days into the free agency period there have been no takers for Wallace. The Cincinnati Bengals and the Denver Broncos are the only two teams that logically could still make a run at Wallace, but as I have said way prior to the start of free agency, I would be surprised if he receives an offer sheet.

The Steelers have let very few key free agents walk off over the years and have replaced them well for the most part when lost. Colbert has a keen sense when it comes to free agency as it relates to both sides of it and his track record speaks for itself.

2000 Carlos Emmons LB Eagles 96 91
2000 Orpheus Roye DE Browns 113 102
2001 Mike Vrabel LB Patriots 155 140
2002 Earl Holmes LB Browns 59 52
2003 Wayne Gandy T Saints 76 69
2005 Chad Scott CB Patriots 17 9
2005 Keydrick Vincent G Ravens 64 57
2005 Kendrell Bell LB Chiefs 43 28
2005 Plaxico Burress WR Giants 73 68
2006 Chris Hope S Titans 85 77
2006 Antwaan Randle El WR Redskins 63 48
2006 Kimo von Oelhoffen DE Jets 24 17
2008 Alan Faneca OG Jets 48 48
2008 Clark Haggans LB Cardinals 56 43
2008 Dan Kreider FB Rams 25 7
2009 Marvel Smith T 49ers 0 0
2009 Nate Washington WR Titans 48 46
2009 Larry Foote LB Lions 14 14
2009 Byron Leftwich QB Buccaneers 3 3
2010 Willie Parker RB Redskins 0 0
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