With the Pittsburgh Steelers being on their bye this week, now is a perfect time to take a quick look ahead to the offseason as it pertains to the players currently on the roster who will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season.
While several of the 22 players listed below surely won’t be re-signed during the offseason a few of them will be if only to let them compete for a roster spot during training camp.
I’ve tried to arrange these players according to their level of importance and as usual, we will be breaking down each and every one of them more thoroughly at the end of the season.
William Gay – CB – Gay has had another great season for the Steelers as not only does he start outside in their base defense, he also shifts inside to the slot in their sub packages. Being as the team only has cornerbacks Cortez Allen, Senquez Golsen and Doran Grant under contract for 2016, they absolutely need to re-sign Gay to at least a two-year deal.
Kelvin Beachum – T – Beachum gambled at the start of the season that he would have another strong year and then cash in during free agency. However, a torn ACL his left knee suffered in the Week 6 game against the Arizona Cardinals prematurely ended his season. Because of that injury Beachum’s value has dropped dramatically. The Steelers have six regular season-games remaining to determine if Alejandro Villanueva can be the team’s starting left tackle in 2016 and possible beyond. If they feel he can’t, they might try to low-ball Beachum with a long-term deal as soon as he’s cleared medically.
Steve McLendon – NT – McLendon has managed to stay healthy so far this season and has played well, especially against the run. He also proved that he can provide a few rotational snaps at defensive end this season in addition to playing in sub packages. While Daniel McCullers is progressing, the Steelers would be wise to try to lock up McLendon with a two-year deal with very little guaranteed money involved. With that said, I expect McLendon to get some looks from other 3-4 teams in free agency.
Ramon Foster – G – While Foster has played well this season, he will turn 30 in January. Being as he’s not the most mobile of big men, his market value should be affordable on a two or three year deal very similar to the last one he signed that only included a $900,000 signing bonus. Being as you know he’d like to end his career where it started, there’s probably a good chance Foster is back in 2016.
Mike Adams – T – It’s not looking like Adams will play at all this season because of a back issue and based on his playing history, he’s not likely to command much more than the minimum in free agency. If the Steelers are unable to re-sign Beachum, they might try to re-sign Adams for next to nothing and let him compete in training camp for a roster spot.
Antwon Blake – CB – Much to the chagrin of the fan base, the Steelers coaches like Blake. He’s been playing injured this season and it shows up weekly on tape. With that said, it won’t be surprising to see him back in 2016 on a one-year deal for the minimum because of the lack of experienced cornerbacks on the roster.
Brandon Boykin – CB – Boykin is likely counting down the days until free agency arrives so he can get out of Pittsburgh. It will be very surprising if he’s re-signed.
Greg Warren – LS – Assuming he wants to keep playing, there’s no reason to think that Warren won’t be re-signed to yet another one-year qualifying contract for the minimum during the offseason.
Sean Spence – ILB – Spence is a part-time player and special teams contributor and because of that he has a minimum value. It wouldn’t hurt to give him a one-year deal for the minimum in hopes that he can win a spot on the 2016 roster.
Cam Thomas – DE/NT – Thomas’s days in the league are likely numbered. His market value at this point is only the veteran minimum and the Steelers would be wise to let him walk.
Will Allen – S – At some point, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin needs to cut the cord that he has had attached to Allen even though he only comes with a veteran minimum salary. He’s a great human and a heck of a leader in the locker room, but the time has come for the Steelers to move on from him.
Robert Golden – S – Golden played well enough in the games that Allen missed this season to injuries to warrant being re-signed to a one-year deal for the minimum. He’s also an above average special teams player.
Clifton Geathers – DE – Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell wanted Geathers back in 2015 but the big man failed to make it through training camp because of some sort of medical issue. Assuming he can play again, it would only cost the Steelers another minimum contract to see if he can win a roster spot. With that said, it’s probably just best to move on from him.
Darrius Heyward-Bey – WR – At this point in his career, Heyward-Bey is just a marginal special teams player who can give you some snaps at wide receiver. His speed is his only asset and that’s not saying much. If for some reason the Steelers want him back in camp again, it will only cost them a minimum contract in order to make that happen. As with others on this list, it’s probably time to move on from Heyward-Bey.
Bruce Gradkowski – QB – If the Steelers want Gradkowski back in 2016 to battle Landry Jones for the No. 2 spot, a one-year qualifying contract after the draft for the minimum will certainly make that happen. Meh!
Michael Vick – QB – Vick’s playing days are over.
Jordan Todman – RB – Todman still has some value as a third running back and special teams player so it shouldn’t be a surprise if he’s re-signed to a one-year qualifying contract for the minimum.
Will Johnson – FB/TE – With Roosevelt Nix now in town, Johnson’s value to the team has diminished greatly. With that said, I won’t be surprised one bit if he’s re-signed to a one-year minimum deal during the offseason to compete for a roster spot in training camp.
Doug Legursky – C/G – Thankfully, Legursky hasn’t had to play a single snap all season thus far. I doubt he’ll be re-signed during the offseason.
Byron Stingily – T – Because Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak has a history with Stingily, I won’t be a shock if he’s re-signed to a one-year minimum contract during the offseason to serve as a camp body.
Isaiah Pead – RB – There really is no need to re-sign Pead unless the Steelers need an extra body for training camp.
David Nelson – WR – Thanks, but no thanks.