Player: Tyler Murphy
Position: Wide Receiver
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2015 Salary Cap Hit: $52,800
2015 Season Breakdown: We first need to backtrack a bit before continuing with the Steelers’ unrestricted free agents to account for a player that was overlooked earlier, that being wide receiver Tyler Murphy. Murphy was originally signed by the Steelers as a rookie undrafted free agent following the 2015 Draft, and managed to make the opening 53-man roster as a sixth wide receiver—technically.
Murphy, as you will no doubt recall, was a college quarterback at Boston College, and the Steelers subsequently actually ended up signing one of the wide receivers that he was throwing to, Shakim Phillips. After Murphy was sent down to the practice squad, the two former college teammates served in the same capacity.
The Steelers were intrigued by Murphy, as well as Devin Gardner, because of their potential to be a sort of dual threat, college quarterbacks who were transitioning to play wide receiver at the professional level. Gardner ended up getting injured and waived, while Murphy, with the Steelers needing an extra body during Martavis Bryant’s suspension, emerged ahead of his teammate to make the roster.
In fact, he actually received playing time ahead of third-round wide receiver Sammie Coates, making one reception for 16 yards in the season opener, though that would be his only offensive contribution of the season.
Murphy was sent down to the practice squad after the first two games of the season when Le’Veon Bell’s suspension was over, but that would not be the last of him. With injuries mounting at the quarterback position, the Steelers once again promoted him back to the 53-man roster, this time for his ability to play quarterback.
He served as the Steelers’ backup quarterback to Landry Jones against the Chiefs during the middle of the season and spent another game on the 53-man roster, for four in total, before being sent back down to the practice squad, where he remained for the rest of the season. Because he was only on the roster for four games, he technically did not accrue a season, and is thus still a first-year player.
Free Agency Outlook: In spite of the fact that he flashed enough during the preseason to make the 53-man roster, and the fact that he spent the entire season with the organization, the Steelers ultimately seemed to signal the conclusion of their business relationship when they failed to promote him from the 53-man roster to protect him, and then failing to offer him a Reserve/Future contract after the season was over.
In doing so, Murphy became an unrestricted free agent, and he was quickly signed by the Dolphins—as a wide receiver—to a Reserve/Future contract. He was, in fact, the only player who finished the season on the practice squad that the Steelers did not sign to a Reserve/Future contract.
Given that they reached such agreements with their practice squad players on January 18th and the Dolphins did not sign Murphy until the 26th, it is reasonable to speculate that the team was not interested in his offer, rather than the other way around.