Player: Terence Garvin
Position: Inside Linebacker
Free Agent Status: Restricted
2015 Salary Cap Hit: $585,000
2015 Season Breakdown: Garvin, a former undrafted free agent who originally made the team after being a rookie minicamp invitee, is still hanging on after three seasons with the Steelers, carving out a niche for himself as a special teams standout.
That is a role that he has continued to employ for himself in 2015. In spite of the fact that he missed four games, he still managed to rack up nine special teams tackles, including two games of multiple tackles in key victories over the Colts and Cardinals.
Garvin is one of the true special teams workhorses, logging 233 snaps of special teams play and over 50 percent of the team’s overall special teams snaps in spite of the fact that he missed a full quarter of the season with a knee injury.
The three-year linebacker plays on nearly every unit of the special teams outside of the placekicking units, essentially, both as the kicking team and the blocking team for field goals and extra point attempts.
Where Garvin took a step back in 2015, aside from health, however, was in his ability to contribute to the defensive side of the ball, or at least, the coaching staff’s trust and confidence in his ability to contribute to the defensive side of the ball.
The Steelers began to work him in rotationally as a pass coverage linebacker in sub-packages during his rookie season, and then saw a role as a sixth linebacker in the goal line package in his second year. This past season, he started in that role for the first two games of the season, but performed poorly, and was replaced—first by a linebacker, and then ultimately by a second safety.
Free Agency Outlook: First, just a slight bit of housekeeping to note that Garvin is the team’s only restricted free agent this year. Restricted free agents are becoming a dying breed, as rookie draft picks now sign four-year contracts, and most who do not see the end of their contract typically find themselves out of the league.
Last year, the Steelers had three restricted free agents, all former undrafted free agents, two of them originally signed by themselves. Pittsburgh signed all three of them to restricted free agent tenders with cap hits over $1 million and never reworked any of their deals.
Depending on how the free agency situations develops, particularly concerning Sean Spence, who is an unrestricted free agent at Garvin’s position, I could see the Steelers doing the same thing with him, though if they manage to retain Spence, they would probably be more incentivized to work in a modest extension that spreads out the cap hit.
Or, failing that, they could risk exposing him to unrestricted free agency as they did with Stevenson Sylvester a few seasons ago before signing him to a one-year veteran-minimum deal, assuming that nobody else ends up signing him. But generally the team has been opposed to taking that risk, and Garvin is a core special teams player, with a possibility of increasing his defensive role.