We are now one week into the 2021 NFL league year and Pittsburg Steelers unrestricted free agent tackle Alejandro Villanueva remains unsigned. What does that mean for his market value and his chances of re-signing with the Steelers? NFL insider John Clayton addressed both of those topics and more during his Wednesday interview on 93.7 The Fan.
Clayton first talked about how that in his opinion the Steelers 2021 free agency grade depends on what happens with Villanueva.
“I’d say probably a C minus,” Clayton said. “I mean, it really depends on what happens with Alejandro Villanueva, because you notice his name hasn’t even been mentioned in the last two weeks. And then the Indianapolis Colts, they ended up signing Sam Tevi to a one-year, $2.75 million deal. He was a left tackle with the Chargers and so you wonder, is that going to be good enough for them? Where is Villanueva sitting in this whole thing?’
So, will Villanueva ultimately need to settle for a low dollar deal of around $3 million in 2021? Clayton doesn’t think it will be that low.
“You would figure it’s going to be better than that, but I mean because you have to look at him as being one of the better free agents still out there,” Clayton said. “So, but right now that’s where the market is because you know, when you go through 130 guys this fast and you’re noticing there’s a lot of re-signings, even more so than some of the signings with other teams.”
Why is that? Clayton gave his take on that question.
“Because basically it’s like you take your lumps in free agency and you don’t get what you want, then you come not begging back to the team, but you come back taking to the team, realizing this may not be the best money you’re going to get,” Clayton said. “And of course, the team is easily willing to re-sign you as quickly as possible. But that’s just the way this free agency period is. And you know, once you get into the third week of free agency, the numbers come down. So again, I would have to think that Villanueva was one of the few guys that can get a little bit better.”
Clayton went on to describe what he thinks of Villanueva’s current free agency situation as it now enters the second week. As part of his answer, he certainly made it sound like he thinks there’s a chance Villanueva ultimately re-signs with the Steelers.
“I think that his reputation is good,” Clayton said of the former army captain. “I mean the only thing that works against him is the same thing that worked against Carlos Dunlap and the same thing that worked against T.Y. Hilton – age. He’s 32 and so it’s hard to get a deal. Now of course, for the Steelers, what they have to figure out is, okay, let’s say it’s going to be a one-year deal at $6 [million], how do I clear it to make sure I have the $6 million to be able to spend on the cap with that. And that’s why it’s probably held up. But again, it also could be Villanueva anticipating that he should get big dollars and is waiting.”
Mainly because of his age, Clayton doesn’t think Villanueva should wait too much longer to take a deal from some team.
“But if you’re any player in your thirties, you better not wait, Clayton said. “It gets worse.”
Cutting to the chase, does Clayton see there being a legitimate chance of Villanueva re-signing with the Steelers?
“I would think so. I mean who’s the left tackle?’ Clayton said. “Yeah, I think they’ll still be in it.’
Like I wrote just a few days ago, Villanueva’s free agency situation will be interesting to watch play out and especially with the first full week of the 2021 NFL league year now in the books. Would the Steelers welcome back Villanueva on a one-year, $9 million contract with four voidable years attached? Would Villanueva take such a deal? It’s hard to answer both of those questions but if both sides were to agree to such a deal, Villanueva’s 2021 cap charge would be just $2.66 million, and it would effectively use just $1.88 million of salary cap space.