We’re getting our first taste at what the 2016 market is going to look like. It’s going to be an expensive field to play. Especially in the secondary.
We wrote about that just the other day, citing the several reports of cornerbacks anxious to cash in. The same could happen at safety and we already have one concrete deal that may help shape the floor.
The Minnesota Vikings have signed SS Andrew Sendejo to a four year, $16 million deal. While the all-important signing bonus and guaranteed money are not known, that four million yearly value for average starting talent is likely higher than what some of us expected.
It's actually $16M over 4 years for #Vikings & S Andrew Sendejo. They were in safety market, linked to Iloka, others. Does this change that?
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 5, 2016
And to apply that to Pittsburgh, if told there is a clear path for Robert Golden to start, that figures to be roughly the same amount he’s worth. This comes in higher than the 2-3 million annual value we pegged Golden for about a month ago. Though ideally, you’d like to get a player like him on the cheap, there are two obstacles.
1. If Golden does not feel like he has a clear path to being a starter, he will explore the market.
2. If Golden feels like he has a clear path in Pittsburgh, it will cost more money than you think.
Either the Steelers have to focus on a new plan, and I’m sure that’s already been done, or will have to pony up the cash the market is going to demand. For these defensive backs, it will be an extreme challenge to get a market-friendly deal. If Golden signs in Pittsburgh, I would expect the basic construction to be similar to what Sendejo received.
That also has a trickle up effect on the rest of the class and shows how expensive it will be to sign someone like Eric Weddle. Even if he is willing to take a little less for a contender, no one is taking significantly below their perceived worth. With Sendejo getting that amount, it’s impossible to think Weddle will entertain any deal below $6 million per season and he’ll likely wind up getting in the 7-7.5 million range, leveraging multiple teams’ interest against each other. At this point, it’s not even worth discussing the idea of Weddle coming to Pittsburgh, despite how popular of a name he’s become for reasons that were never exactly clear to me.
Ditto for Tashaun Gipson and George Iloka who should command similar amounts on the market as young, rising safeties with lots of experience and production.
There are three unrestricted safeties worth targeting. Detroit’s Isa Abdul-Quddus, Denver’s David Bruton, and Kansas City’s Husain Abdullah. Abdul-Quddus is ideal but also the most costly. He could come in at around six million per season, a 26 year old who helped patch up a leaky Lions’ defense the second half of the season. He’s big and can hit, a classic box-safety Pittsburgh needs.
Bruton is a little older, turning 29 in the summer, but had a strong 2015 campaign with 2 interceptions, a forced fumble, and a sack in 13 games. He’s versatile, a capable special teamer, who has played the traditional safety role and faux-linebacker in sub-package football. He should come in under the $5 million average value.
Ditto for Abdullah, turning 31 and the oldest of the trio. A cheap, versatile piece, who wore many hats for the Chiefs. He lost out on playing time last season but was still a valuable piece and in 2014, had a pick six and 10 pass deflections. He may not soldify the safety spot but would provide quality depth and the ability to start.
The widlcard to all this is Tony Jefferson. He is a restricted free agent and tendered by the Arizona Cardinals earlier this week. But he recieved the lowest tender and as an undrafted free agent, any team able to steal him away would not have to give the Cardinals any compensation. Arizona only has the right of refusal, or the the right to match the offer and keep him.
Jefferson fits the Steelers perfectly. He’s just turned 24 in January but has played extensively over the last two seasons, recording 155 tackles over that span. In 2015, he forced three fumbles, picked off two passes, and had two sacks. He played as the team’s nickel defender, usually playing safety while Tyrann Mathieu covered the slot. Jefferson has spent lots of time in the box, blitzing off the edge, playing the deep half, or centerfield. He’s done it all. He’s fast, closes well, and is an impact tackler. The Steelers wouldn’t have to compete with him on the open market and could get him slightly below value.
Granted, on The Terrible Podcast Friday, Dave Bryan made some excellent counterpoints. Teams do shoot high in their offer to have the best possible chance of stealing a player, you have to wait five days for the team to decide to match or not, valuable time tied up in free agency. It’s not like you can extend official offers to other safeties if you have one in limbo. But if the Steelers can ink him to a long-term deal, they’ve greatly solved their safety problem, a big weight off their shoulders.
The options are there. So is the value. You just have to look a little harder.