With NFL free agency now less than a month away, and the Super Bowl in the rearview mirror, conversation around the league is kicking into high gear concerning those players who are soon to hit the market. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a number of starters who are slated to become free agents, and Pro Football Focus recently took a stab at projecting the contracts many of them will receive.
In a list of the top 200 projected free agents in 2022, the outlet had five pending Steelers free agents among them: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Joe Haden, Trai Turner, Terrell Edmunds, and Ahkello Witherspoon. That’s far from the entirety of their notable free agents; just the ones they consider among the top 200.
Smith-Schuster ranked highest of the group at 42, and they project him to be in line for another one-year, $8 million contract, arguing that his “career arc has largely been a function of the offenses that he’s played on”, and that “He won’t transform an offense, but he can be a nice complementary piece on an offense that already has legitimate outside weapons”.
Haden is next on the list, all the way at 110, and they don’t much of a market for him, projecting a one-year, $5 million contract that is fully guaranteed. They see him as a number two or three zone corner at this point in his career, suggesting that he could extend his playing days if he’s willing to move inside, which—as of August, he wasn’t.
Trai Turner is listed at 119, and they believe he could still be a starting guard in the NFL, even if his best days are behind him. He lands a three-year deal worth $18.75 million, averaging out to $6.25 million per season, with $10 million guaranteed.
As for Terrell Edmunds, the outlet views him as a marginal starting safety, which seems to me on the nose. “Typically not a liability, he has been low on the kind of playmaking teams want at the position”, they summarize. He is projected to land a three-year, $19.5 million deal ($6.5 million per season), with $10.75 million guaranteed.
Last on the list for Steelers free agents is the one who wasn’t really a starter, the other cornerback, Ahkello Witherspoon, who did play a big role in the second half of the year. Checking in at 124, he can expect a one-year, $4 million deal, fully guaranteed, which is the same as he signed for last year.
Of the Steelers’ top five free agents, by their measuring, only two are projected to receive multi-year deals, those being Edmunds and Turner, whose yearly averages probably come close to the ballpark that they may receive.
If Witherspoon is getting only a $4 million offer, I certainly think the Steelers would be very excited about that, and would bring him back at that price. And they would probably bring back Haden as well if they could have both of them for $9 million combined—offset by some void years.