Ramon Foster has been in the NFL for 10 seasons now. He has started well over 100 games, including the 2010 Super Bowl during his second year in the league, at right guard. He has been the Pittsburgh Steelers’ full-time starter at left guard since 2013.
He is also 32, and playing out the final season of a three-year deal on a team that has two younger interior offensive linemen that have already put in quality starts, in B.J. Finney and Matt Feiler. “I see what’s happening here. I understand it. I respect it”, he told Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
What he also told Cook is that he was in contract negotiations with the front office during training camp this year—which he spent primarily sidelined with an ankle injury, which in hindsight makes me wonder how that might have affected the negotiations.
He said that General Manager Kevin Colbert and he had a discussion about his status. “I told him, ‘look, if you don’t give it to me now, I probably won’t be back. I’m OK with that. I’m going to give you my all because that’s just who I am. I’m going to kill it this season. You’re going to pay me or someone else will’”.
Foster is the one lineman from the Steelers’ starting group who hasn’t been ‘paid’. Though he is on his third contract, he has never had a cap hit larger than the $3.6 that he bear in 2018. His career earnings only amount to $12.425 million, according to Over the Cap. So it’s hard to blame him.
Consider the rest of the group. Maurkice Pouncey was the first, signing a five-year, $44 million extension in 2014. Marcus Gilbert that same year cashed in on a five-year deal worth $30 million. David DeCastro is playing under a five-year, $50 million extension, while Alejandro Villanueva, only in his fourth season, signed a four-year contract averaging $6 million per season.
Some of those are even considered a bargain at this point, specifically the contracts of the tackles, but in comparison to Foster, it’s almost criminal. He has taken team-friendly deals twice now, and did so before he officially hit the open market, but he is not going to do that again, from the sounds of it.
Perhaps he is taking his cues from Andrew Whitworth, the former Cincinnati Bengals star left tackle, who at the age of 36 in 2017 finally hit unrestricted free agency in order to receive his worth and earned a three-year, $33.75 million deal averaging $11.25 per season.
Now, obviously Foster is not going to get over $10 million per season. But with Finney and Feiler already behind him, I think it goes without saying that he stands a good chance of getting a better deal—potentially a much better deal—than the Steelers would be willing to pay in 2019 to a 33-year-old.
Which would be a shame. I’d hate to see him go. He’s one of the most likeable and underrated players on the team, without question. But he does deserve to seek out his worth, and I would be happy for him to see him get it.