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Steelers Losing Opportunities As Others Exploit Secondary Free Agent Market

Two days ago, the window closed on the period during which unrestricted free agents whose 2015 contracts had expired would factor into teams’ compensatory draft pick formulas. And for the past two days, I have written about potential targets at the cornerback and defensive end positions that the Pittsburgh Steelers should pursue, now that signing them would come with no future penalty.

As should go without saying, of course, that same window opened for the other 31 teams on May 12 as well, and they are beginning to take advantage of it, much to the chagrin of those who were seeking to find some of these names headed to Pittsburgh.

Two potential prime targets for the Steelers, one at cornerback and one at defensive end, have quickly found new homes after failing to do so through the first wave of free agency, with teams electing to wait until after the draft in order to continue to flesh out their roster as they get a better feel for the holes in their depth chart.

Cornerback Jerraud Powers, who has spent the last couple of seasons with the Cardinals, just signed with the Steelers’ division rivals, the Ravens, inking a one-year deal worth $1.75 million. Chances are, of course, that the team would not have been in the market for inking any cornerback to a contract worth much more than the veteran minimum, as they would only be signing him for depth behind their top four players.

Along the defensive end front, former Lions defensive end Jason Jones also just yesterday agreed to a contract with the Dolphins, though terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed as of the time of this writing. Jones, though he played in a four-man roster, is a player that the Steelers brought in for a free agent visit, though they obviously failed to sign him to a deal.

Instead of Jones, they signed Ricardo Mathews from the Chargers, who, while playing in a base 3-4 front, nearly exclusively spent his time playing in the nickel sub-package rather than in a three-man front. It remains to be seen the extent to which the Steelers intend to use him in the rotation, and in what packages.

Along the cornerback front, the has not been active in the free agent market at all outside of losing players. Both Antwon Blake and Brandon Boykin signed one-year free agent contracts outside of the organization. They also released veteran Cortez Allen.

With the exception of the signing of Mathews, Pittsburgh is banking on replenishing these positions with their new draft picks—first-round cornerback Artie Burns and third-round defensive tackle Javon Hargrave—as well as internal improvements from players such as L.T. Walton and Senquez Golson.

Still, it would not be surprising to see the Steelers bring in a veteran free agent at one of these two positions at some point between now and training camp. There are many names still available, and they have indicated that they are interested in looking at the market, if the right value should present itself.

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