If the first day of the ‘grace period’ of legal tampering has taught us anything, it’s that free agency in 2014 is very much a buyer’s market. But that shouldn’t be too surprising considering the salary cap has risen $20 million over the course of the past two offseasons.
To be quite frank, Keenan Lewis’ contract of two years ago is looking like a bargain right now in comparison, even considering that that deal was done in a purposely deflated market when the salary cap was still in the mid-$125 million range.
Despite the fact that teams aren’t really supposed to formally negotiate contracts during this three-day window, we saw reports throughout the day yesterday from various sources confirming deals agreed to in principle between free agents and their soon-to-be new teams.
And those deals are coming up with some big numbers. Numbers that should make you realize, if you didn’t already, that the Pittsburgh Steelers were never going to be significant players in the market this season. This period is the playoffs for the teams who have owners who like to spend money, and they don’t get a trophy for their expenditures in March. They are 11 months too early.
Many of the highest profile free agent cornerbacks have already come off the board, so to speak, as the pass rushers begin to go as well. The Steelers’ own, Jason Worilds, is expected to be heavily courted.
It’s almost getting to the point where one has to wonder if Pittsburgh will be able to even retain all of the free agents they would wish to bring back. Will they get deals done within the next 50 hours or so with the likes of Brice McCain, Arthur Moats, and Matt Spaeth, or will it come down to bidding on the open market?
Because if it comes to that, it may end up being more costly to hold together the team from last year than originally thought. Just because a player says that he likes his team doesn’t always mean that he’ll stay put. See Cotchery, Jerricho.
We have really yet to hear any reports about what the Steelers are thinking when it comes to outside free agents, though that isn’t particularly surprising, given that the team prefers to do things under the radar.
It came as a surprise just last year when Pittsburgh came out of the gate signing safety Mike Mitchell to a five-year, $25-million contract on the first day of free agency, a day in which the team rarely lifts a finger.
A comparable signing, perhaps even, two, would not be surprising this offseason, depending on how the front office manages its available cap space over the course of the next two days. They still have to make a decision about their restricted free agents, for example, and there are other matters coming to a head, such as Troy Polamalu’s ultimate fate. Given the way the market is shaping up, perhaps they will decided to back off and stick to tending their own house.