Pittsburgh Steelers fans are still thirsting for help at inside linebacker. I don’t think the chances are very good that the team actually adds any notable names to the position between now and the start of the season. They really don’t even have the cap space to make any sort of meaningful signings even if they were motivated to do so, which doesn’t appear to be the case.
But let’s say that the team is open to it, and they would even be willing to move some more things around in the event that they have the opportunity to add a player that they really like that can help at the position this year. And let’s say that that player is a name that has been tossed around since prior to the start of free agency: Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
There was some faint hope that the Eagles might actually release Kendricks in order to sign and retain some of their other defensive players. They did end up letting go of Vinny Curry after he declined to take a pay cut. But the point is Kendricks is still on the roster.
Last season proved that the Steelers are not averse to making trades. They traded an undrafted rookie center for Dashaun Phillips. They traded a fourth-round pick for Vance McDonald and a fifth-round pick. They traded a sixth-round pick for J.J. Wilcox and a 2019 seventh-round pick. And they traded away Sammie Coates and Ross Cockrell for late-round draft considerations as well. Then they made two more trades during the draft.
That’s seven trades that the Steelers have made within the past year. So what’s one more?
For what it’s worth, I was recently directed to an article from the Philly Voice. The main question addressed alluded to a comment that Ed Bouchette made on a radio appearance that seemed to imply the Steelers might (or perhaps should) consider pursuing Kendricks, whom the Eagles could be willing to part with. Kendricks once requested to be traded, after all.
“I think Kendricks would be a nice fit at ILB in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense, and they badly need players there”, reporter Jimmy Kempski replied after detailing the Steelers’ inability to acquire one of the top inside linebackers during the 2018 NFL Draft. “Would Pittsburgh give up a 2019 fifth round pick? That’d probably get it done”.
The Steelers gave up a fifth-round pick for cornerback Brandon Boykin. They gave up a sixth-round pick for Justin Gilbert, and another for Josh Scobee. Of course they would be willing to part with a fifth-round pick for a starting inside linebacker.
The problem isn’t draft resources, though. It’s cap resources. Kendricks has two years left on a four-year extension that includes a base salary of nearly $6 million in 2018, or about what the Steelers have available in cap space, almost all of which is already earmarked.
It honestly would be pretty difficult to even manage a way to get the Steelers cap-compliant under such a scenario given their foreseeable expenditures. They likely would restructure his contract the way they did with Wilcox after he was acquired to lower his initial cap hit.
But if I’m being honest we’re talking about fan-fiction general managing right here. I hope nobody got their hopes up reading this article, because I wouldn’t bet even a penny on this actually happening.