You know I generally dislike any “the Steelers should go sign this guy” (Dez Bryant! Navarro Bowman! Mel Blount’s cowboy hat!) but if the team wants to look to help out their pass rush help, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to at least check in on Denver Broncos outside linebacker Shane Ray.
Here’s what we know.
1. Ray is on the outs in Denver. The team declined his 5th year option and drafted Bradley Chubb when he fell into their laps 5th overall. Throw in Shaquill Barrett, a player they’re high on and coming off a four sack season, to rotate behind and Ray apparently doesn’t have much of a role anymore.
2. The Steelers’ outside linebacker depth is thinner than LeBron James’ hairline. They didn’t add anyone in the draft and though Kevin Colbert sounds high on Anthony Chickillo (who mostly played only when a starter was hurt) and Keion Adams (a dart throw), it’s hard to think they feel like the group is settled.
Pittsburgh could go for a cheaper option like bringing back Arthur Moats on a one-year deal. But of course, he is a “presence” player at this point of his career, not so much a pass rusher. Point is, and it’s obvious, there’s a vacancy sign.
Ray is coming off an objectively bad 2017. Limited to only eight games due to a wrist injury that never healed, the former first rounder finished with only one sack. 2016 was a much brighter year, second on the team behind only future Hall of Famer Von Miller. He’s flashed enough of an impact, even if he may never live up to the billing of his draft status.
Any interest from the Steelers, and this is all speculation, to be clear, wouldn’t be a shock. They looked at him coming out of the draft even if they ultimately selected Bud Dupree – Ray went one pick later. Mike Tomlin and Colbert were at his Pro Day and had the all-important dinner with him.
Shane Ray/DE-OLB/Missouri scheduled to have dinner with the Pittsburgh Steelers this evening prior to tomorrow's pro-day. More later.
— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) March 18, 2015
It’s always hard to say what their final evaluation of him was but clearly, there was more than cursory interest. Now, he could be on the market or at minimum, Denver willing to listen to offers.
His value is going to be as low as ever. With the option declined, he’s entering the final year of his deal with a minimal role if he stays and unlikely to make much of an impact.
What will it take to wrestle him away? Maybe a 5th round pick, hopefully even less. Ray wouldn’t have to come in and start. Dupree and T.J.Watt are firmly planted atop the depth chart. But Ray could rotate at either spot and serve as an insurance policy for when one of them gets dinged, which seems likely to happen at some point during the year.
His cap hit isn’t terrible in the last year of his rookie deal, coming under $3 million. For a team without the best cap space like the Steelers, it’s probably more of an issue, but I trust Omar Khan to make the numbers work.
It’s a low-risk option on someone the league once thought was going to be the next great thing. Pittsburgh loves to roll the dice on former first rounders, whether that’s trading for Justin Gilbert or signing Justin Hunter and Tyson Alualu. If there’s one thing that gets Colbert giddy, it’s pedigree. Ray has it. And some production to back it up.
I’m not saying they have to do it. But if the Steelers want to be aggressive, maybe towards the end of camp when they get a look at what they have, Ray feels as good of an option as any.