AFC North News Watch: Day 32


Thursday night ended up being a fairly chaotic one in terms of impact around the AFC North with Troy Polamalu revealing that he has decided to retire, so in the chaos that followed, I failed to mention a couple of things that I will be getting to later on in this divisional update.

On the subject of Polamalu, of course, the fact that he retired was not surprising, although when it would happen was unclear. Right about now, however, actually happened to be a pretty good time for it to come, since the Steelers are a few weeks out from the draft.

As a result of Polamalu’s retirement, the Steelers will save a few million in salary cap space, but of course don’t expect the team to go using that on signing a free agent, since that’s money they expected to have all along. At the most, it will be used to extend a contract or two, or it will be rolled into next year’s cap.

I wrote previously that I felt the Steelers were holding off on re-signing safety Will Allen both as a gesture toward Polamalu and as a matter of public relations. The media presented the organization as strong-arming the future Hall of Famer out of the door, and adding a player at his position may have contributed to that perception.

It’s not surprising, then, that on the same day Polamalu’s retirement was officially announced, they also happened to re-sign Allen to a one-year, veteran-minimum contract. It really is a no-brainer move with no downside.

At worst, Allen could be a spot starter or an emergency starter if Shamarko Thomas happens to fall flat as he attempts to enter the starting lineup, but realistically I don’t see that happening. It’s possible that he gets used some in sub-packages. In the meantime, he will contribute on special teams, as he always has. But the bottom line is that it’s a smart signing that provides much-needed proven depth.

Yesterday we also learned that the Steelers picked up the fifth-year option for guard David DeCastro, making him only the second player thus far from the 2012 draft to have his option picked up.

The option will pay him around $8 million in 2016, but I expect that they will work out a long-term extension for him next offseason, as they will for Cameron Heyward this year. To be clear, that money is only guaranteed in the event of injury for now, and is not guaranteed period until next season.

According to one article, free agent tight end Rob Housler elected to sign with the Cleveland Browns, replacing Jordan Cameron, over the Cincinnati Bengals in part due to the promise of a greater opportunity of being a deep threat in the passing game. Housler was marginalized from the passing game last season.

The Baltimore Ravens intend to add offensive skill position players during the draft this year, including a running back. They recently had one, Jay Ajayi, in for a pre-draft visit. Also scheduled for a visit is wide receiver DaVante Parker, whom they’ve previously expressed interest in.

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