On my first day in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine, a bevy of head coaches and general managers were scheduled to speak to the media prior to all of the player interviews that will follow in the upcoming days. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, GM Kevin Colbert was one of the first executives to speak to those in attendance, including myself.
Given the nature of the NFL offseason and how free agency occurs before the NFL Draft, I thought it would be wise to pose a question to Colbert about this year’s free agency class to potentially see if they may be leaning one way or another in terms of filling some positions of need via the free agency route prior to the 2022 NFL Draft.
JH: You talked a little bit about the depth that you have at certain positions in this draft class and how they have strengths and weaknesses kind of like tackle wide receiver being its position of strength. In terms of the free agent class when talking your pro scouts, how would you evaluate the free agent class as a whole as potential strengths or weaknesses from what you’ve seen, or when talking to your pro scouts and how you that may affect your approach to free agency?
KC: You know the free agency class is always an unknown because most of the top players have already signed a contract with their respective teams, whether it be via the franchise or transition tag. So, when we go into it, a lot of times those players never make it to the market, and we understand that. We try to do that ourselves. So that’s still a very wide open situation (regarding free agency). We can’t even talk to their agents until the given two-day period (prior to free agency starting). So we don’t even know who might be available, even though we may have them ranked.
In classic Colbert fashion, he managed to dance around the question, stating that many of the top players rated on their free agency board will likely be tagged prior to them hitting the open market. This is not to be expected, as Colbert acknowledged that they would do the same thing. However, Colbert hasn’t been one to go after the big fish in free agency in recent years, but rather looking for bargain signings that fill needs on the roster at a modest price.
So, while Colbert may acknowledge they might not know who exactly will be available when free agency begins, I would wager that he already has several names circled on his wish list that won’t break the bank but can at the very minimum be a placeholder at a key area of need, if not serve as a potential starter for a season or two until they find a long-term replacement via the draft or a potential trade.
One of those positions likely will be quarterback with so many rumors circulating out there including the one that the Steelers are interested in signing Jameis Winston, Mitchell Trubisky, or Teddy Bridgewater this offseason. Another position I would expect them to address on the free agent market would be the interior offensive line given the fact that Colbert said in a previous press conference that the interior offensive line is a weakness in this year’s draft class.
Center Ryan Jensen has been a name floated around out there as a potential signing that would sure up the center position, while a guy like James Daniels from the Chicago Bears is also scheduled to hit the market. Unlike Jensen, Daniels shouldn’t command top-dollar and could be a long-term investment along the offensive line, being only 24 years old and having started games at both guard and center in his NFL career thus far.
We will get the true answer about where Colbert sees the strengths and weaknesses of this free agency class when the new league years starts on March 16 by who they sign and the investment they make at said positions. However, given how he spoke about various position groups in his press conference today, I expect outside additions to come at quarterback, interior offensive line, and defensive line.