You can tell that the start of the free agency signing period is getting nearer as we are starting to see more rankings of the soon-to-be free agents emerge on the internets. On Wednesday, CBS Sports senior writer Pete Prisco and NFL insider Pat Kirwan released their free agent rankings and they included five Pittsburgh Steelers players on it.
Based on their rating system, linebacker Jason Worilds is the highest rated Steelers player at 55th overall. As far as 3-4 outside linebackers go, however, Worilds ranks second behind only Brian Orakpo (4th overall). If indeed Orakpo is re-signed by the Washington Redskins, and it appears he will be, Worilds really isn’t expected to have any competition in free agency, at least according to their rankings.
Adam Caplan of ESPN wrote recently that he expects Worilds’ market value to be an average of $6-$7 million per year, but without any competition, that number might be way too conservative. We will find out very soon.
Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders cracks their list just one spot behind Worilds at 56th overall, however, as far as the wide receiver position goes, Sanders ranks 8th overall. Two wide receivers ranked ahead of him, Anquan Boldin (2nd overall) and Riley Cooper (7th overall), are expected to be re-signed by their respective teams before the start of free agency. In addition, the Seattle Seahawks really seem intent on signing Golden Tate (5th overall), so if all of that comes to fruition, Sanders, according to their rankings, would become the fifth ranked free agent wide receiver on the market with virtually no competition behind him.
So what’s Sanders market value? If you believe recent reports, New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (4th overall) wants something in the neighborhood of $6 million per season. If indeed most teams have him ranked higher than Sanders, that doesn’t bode well for the SMU product.
Let’s say the best offer Sanders gets is $5 million per season. Do you think it’s worth the Steelers trying to bring him back for that amount? A five-year, $25 million contract would likely need around $12 million guaranteed attached. Giving Sanders an $8 million signing bonus, a first year base salary of $1 million and a second year guaranteed base of $3 million would make his 2014 cap hit $2.6 million and his 2015 cap hit $4.6 million.
Do I think that’s still too rich for the Steelers blood? Yes, I do, but what if his market value turns out to only be $4 million per season? Would you make the attempt to re-sign him at that price? What if the five-year, $25 million contract I laid out above only required $10 million guaranteed over the first two years including a $6 million signing bonus?
Moving on down the rankings list we find defensive end Ziggy Hood ranked 91st overall. They have him listed as a defensive tackle, however, but we’ll play along just the same as it’s feasible some teams might think he’s a better fit inside in a 4-3 defense. According to their defensive tackle rankings, Hood is ranked 14th overall. I’m not going to get too deep into his market value, but let’s just say that if the Steelers want to re-sign him, he shouldn’t break their bank.
Rounding out the Steelers players on their list are safety Ryan Clark (142nd overall) and wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (147th overall). Do you think a team is going to be willing to pay either of them much more than the veteran minimum? Cotchery has more value to the Steelers than he does elsewhere, so you would think a two-year, $2.5 million contract with $1.5 million guaranteed would easily get him back in the fold. The Steelers will probably let him shop his services and if he doesn’t get an offer, maybe he returns on a one-year qualifying contract for the minimum that comes with a reduced salary cap charge.
As for Clark, if they make him an offer at all, I can’t see it being more than a one-year qualifying contract for the minimum. That’s a big, ‘if’.
I have given you plenty to discuss, so have at it in the comments. Also, let me know your Sanders value to the Steelers per year as well as it should make for an interesting debate.