Player: Ramon Foster
Position: Offensive Guard
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2015 Salary Cap Hit: $2,150,000
2015 Season Breakdown: The 2015 season was not the first time that Steelers guard Ramon Foster was called upon to take a bigger role within the offensive line—in fact, he has served in that role for a while already. But his responsibilities were amplified once again in the absence of All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey, as was also the case in 2013.
That year may have been the best of his career up to that point, but he had a dip in performance in 2014, during which an ankle injury affected him through much of the year—he also had a personal loss off the field weighing over his head.
This past season, however, was an impressive bounce back season for the seven-year veteran, which makes it all the more impressive to say that he was just the Steelers’ third-best offensive lineman in 2015, considering the strides recently taken by David DeCastro, who made the first-team All-Pro list for himself, and Marcus Gilbert, who played a Pro Bowl-worthy campaign.
Foster has routinely graded out well as a pass protector, steadily giving help when there was no work in front of him, diagnosing the rush, and picking up stunts. And while he was never overly deficient as a run blocker, this season may have been his best in that regard.
Considering all the variables at play for both him and the team, it would be fair to say that Foster, having recently turned 30, is coming off the best season of his career, which also happens to be just the third in which he was intended to be in the starting lineup, spanning the past three years that comprised his contract signed in the 2013 offseason.
Free Agency Outlook: The question now comes—what sort of value with the 30-year-old former undrafted free agent command on the open market, and are the Steelers willing and able to match that? Because it seems rather unlikely that a deal is worked out prior to the start of free agency.
Of course, he’s not simply a 30-year-old former undrafted free agent. He’s also played in over 100 games in his career and made 87 starts, including 75 out of a possible 80 over the past five seasons—four of those missed starts due to injury.
And he’s also a presence both in the locker room and on the field, a team leader and a spokesman for his fellow players. He is a highly regarded fixture that should be embraced by any locker room he might be added to, as he has been by his teammates, coaches, and the media in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers got three years of solid starting line play for Foster for $5.5 million, which is a bargain. While he may not be in the prime window for cashing in in free agency, he certainly figures to command greater value than under $2 million per season. So it will come down to how much they value him relative to what they think they can replace him with at left guard offset by cost.