For much of the offseason, it was assumed that, at some point before the start of the regular season, the Pittsburgh Steelers would award a couple of young players with lucrative contract extensions, as they did last summer with key pieces of their offensive line and one particularly maligned cornerback.
More recently, we’ve heard from the local beat writers that that may not be the case after all, and that perhaps only defensive end Cameron Heyward, who is currently playing under his rookie contract’s team fifth-year option with a high-dollar value, will see a contract extension amongst those who are due for one.
Should that be the case, it will certainly create an interesting spring next year with several key starters set to become free agents, including guard Ramon Foster, who is entering the final year of a three-year deal, during which he has been cemented as the starter on the left side.
A former undrafted free agent, Foster is entering his seventh season in the league, all with the Steelers. Despite the fact that he has not formally been a full-time starter since the past two seasons, he has started 71 of 86 career games, including 16 in 2012, when rookie David DeCastro was supposed to be plugged into the starting lineup.
Following that season, the Steelers had to make the choice between Foster and Willie Colon, whom they moved to guard. They chose to cut Colon and sign Foster to the modest three-year deal that he is currently scheduled to play out.
Even though there is certainly no clear successor in view at the moment, however, there doesn’t appear to be any urgency whatsoever to get a deal done with Foster prior to the conclusion of his contract.
Two years ago, the team worked out Foster’s deal just on the eve of free agency, and at the time he said that he didn’t really want to explore his options elsewhere, satisfied with the situation that he had in Pittsburgh.
But that might change if the Steelers are looking to push him out of the starting lineup. Would Foster really be willing to sign a new contract after this year for a backup’s salary after starting 45 games in the last three years?
Even though the team has not invested highly in searching for a potential new left guard, at least in terms of draft picks, they have brought in a nice pool of undrafted free agents this offseason, whose names should already be familiar to those who regular read the site. Waiting to see if they have anything in any of these guys could be a motivating factor in waiting to do a deal.
The bottom line, however, is that there really is no urgency to get him locked up now. Even if he hits the open market next season, the 30-year-old’s services likely won’t be in serious demand. If they still wanted to retain him after this season, there’s no reason to believe that they wouldn’t be able to.