On Monday, it was reported that the Pittsburgh Steelers have officially lost offensive line coach Mike Munchak to the Denver Broncos and that certainly isn’t the best of news as he’s arguably the best offensive line coach currently in the NFL. With Munchak now in Denver, it will be interesting to see if any soon-to-be Steelers free agent offensive linemen wind up joining him this offseason.
Currently, the Steelers have one offensive lineman set to become an unrestricted free agent during the offseason and that’s left guard Ramon Foster, who turned 33 years of age a week ago. While Foster undoubtedly would love to end his career right where it started in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers love to see him do that as well, the two sides might find it tough to reach an agreement on a new contract that pleases both. Because of that, Foster might finally get a chance to explore free agency and with Munchak now in Denver, it’s not unfathomable to think that the Broncos might show some level of interest in him.
Whether or not the Broncos have some sort of interest in Foster in the coming weeks could boil down to how the Denver franchise now feels about left guard Ronald Leary. Leary, who has missed 15 games in his two seasons with the Broncos due to injuries, is scheduled to earn a base salary of $8.15 million in 2019. If the Broncos move on from Leary prior to the start of free agency, Foster might become a cheaper alternative target for Denver.
One other Steelers lineman set to become a free agent in less than 9 weeks is backup center/guard B.J. Finney. Finney, however, is scheduled to become a restricted free agent in March and thus we should expect the Steelers to issue him, at the very least, a low right-of-first-refusal tender of around $2 million.
A low tender, however, might not prevent a team such as the Broncos from signing Finney to an offer sheet in March or April and especially if they feel like he might have starter potential at either guard spot or at center. If such an offer sheet were issued to Finney by a team, the Steelers would at least have the option to match it. The Steelers could completely avoid running the risk of losing Finney during the offseason by restricted tendering him at a second-round level.
While not currently scheduled to become a free agent this offseason, Steelers tackle Marcus Gilbert could wind up a street free agent in March should the team decide to part ways with him in the coming weeks. Gilbert, who has missed 23 regular season games and parts of several others over the course of the last three seasons due to injuries and suspension, could find himself in Denver next season with Munchak if the offensive line coach has faith he can stay on the field.
There’s obviously no guarantee that any of Foster, Finney and Gilbert ultimately land in Denver with Munchak in 2019. In fact, of the three, Gilbert might be the most likely of the trio to do so and that assumes that the Steelers ultimately cut him. Team’s don’t normally like to take the time to deal with restricted free agents because of the contract match option so Finney’s likely to be safe regardless of the level he’s restricted tendered at. As for Foster, my gut tells me right now he’ll ultimately re-sign with the Steelers at some point during the offseason.