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Post-Draft Free Agents To Watch Out For: Offense

Now that the 2022 NFL Draft has concluded, The Pittsburgh Steelers will bring their rookie draft picks, UDFAs, and tryout players to rookie minicamp which will take place May 13-15. After that, the rest of the team will join the rookies signees and tryout players given a contract after rookie minicamp at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on May 24 for voluntary OTAs which run through June 9. After the OTA’s have concluded, mandatory minicamp will take place June 14-16.

Now, it has become custom for a player or two to be added to the roster via free agency after the draft has concluded to tie up any “loose ends” on the roster. Normally, this tends to occur after mandatory minicamp after the coaching staff and personnel staff have laid eyes on the players in attendance, likely deciding whether they feel comfortable with who that have at certain position groups or if they feel the need to add more depth or a potential starter to shore up positions of weakness on the roster.

We saw Pittsburgh already add S/CB Damontae Kazee immediately following the draft, and given the team’s history as well as HC Mike Tomlin’s comments post-draft concerning the lack off addressing outside linebacker in the 2022 NFL Draft, you can pretty confidently say that they aren’t done adding outside players to the current roster. Thus, I have taken the initiative to comb through the current free agents still out there on the open market and list several names that could interest the Pittsburgh Steelers at positions of need. In this post, I will be addressing the offensive side of the ball.

RB Devontae Booker (age 29)

After deciding to not address backup RB in the draft, Pittsburgh shortly-after signed UDFA RBs Mataeo Durant from Duke and Jaylen Warren from Oklahoma State. While both players should have a chance to compete in training camp and push the likes of Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland Jr. for a roster spot, Pittsburgh may feel more comfortable pursuing a quality, experienced free agent still out there for the veteran minimum. One name that seems like a logical fit is former Giants RB Devontae Booker. Booker is coming off a two-year $5.5 million dollar contract with New York that he signed last offseason, but ended up being a cap casualty this offseason.

Booker was productive as the #2 RB behind Saquon Barkley, playing in 16 games with four starts as Barkley dealt with injuries and received 145 carries for 593 yards (4.1 YPC) and two TDs while adding in a career-high 40 receptions for 268 yards (6.8 YPR) and a score. He may not be a dynamic runner with great speed or explosiveness, but he still under the age of 30 and has the size Pittsburgh likes in their running backs, standing at 5’11, 219lb. Pittsburgh has showing interest in Booker in the past, bringing him in for a pre-draft visit back in 2016 prior to the draft where he was selected by the Denver Broncos. Given his size and skill set as a pass catcher, proven production in a backup role, as well as previous interest and ability to contribute on special teams, Booker could be a name to watch as a cheap add to the backfield.

RB Darrel Williams (age 27)

I mentioned Darrel Williams as a potential target prior to the start of free agency, and since he is still unsigned, he could be a savvy addition for Pittsburgh going into the offseason. Did you know that a Kansas City RB had 1,000 total scrimmage yards last season? If you guessed that player to be former first round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire, you would be incorrect. It was actually Darrel Williams, a former undrafted free agent back in 2018 who has carved out quite a role for himself over the last couple of seasons for the Chiefs. The 5’11, 219lb back has the size to run in-between the tackles and be utilized in short yardage and goal line situations, but also averaged 9.6 YPR last season to the tune of 452 yards on 47 receptions and two scores.

Williams shouldn’t break the bank like some other backs who were signed during the early FA period, so he likely could be had on a deal averaging 1-2 million dollars annually. If a team is looking for a good-sized back that can compliment a more dynamic option or play the backup role to a featured back, Williams would be a great signing that has proven he can carry the load while also contributing as a receiver in the passing game at a likely discount.

RB Justin Jackson (age 26)

While Booker and Williams fit the more prototypical mold of the big-bruising RB the Steelers have become known for, another back that remains on the open market that brings a different skill set to the table is former Chargers RB Justin Jackson. Standing at 5’11 5/8″, 200lb, Jackson bucks the trend of most Steelers RBs of the past, but would likely be a great compliment to a player like Najee Harris on the roster. The Northwestern product has been productive as in a committee role in Los Angeles to begin his career, occasionally carrying the load in spot starter duties when either Melvin Gordon or Austin Ekeler dealt with injuries and represented himself well in such a capacity. In four seasons, Jackson has received 206 carries for 1,040 yards (5.0 YPC) and four TDs and caught 65 passes for 508 yards (7.8 YPR).

While smaller in size, Jackson runs hard in-between the tackles, having been the workhorse back during his college days at Northwestern. He is also a capable receiver out of the backfield and runs with great vision and elusiveness to make defenders miss in space. Jackson could fill the role as that scat/change-of-pace back behind Harris, being a guy that can get 5-8 touches in a game both as a runner as well as a pass catcher and provide a skill set to the backfield that Snell does not as well as consistent, proven production McFarland has failed to do in his first two seasons in Pittsburgh.

OT Zach Banner (age 28)

Yinz may not like it, but the Pittsburgh Steelers have shown time and again that they are not opposed to bringing back one of their own. Even when Zach Banner was released on March 16, I had a feeling that Pittsburgh could bring him back at a reduced salary should he be interested in returning. Obviously, the release stemmed from complications post-ACL surgery which prevented him from getting back on the field in 2021, giving the Steelers little reason to carry him into 2022 when he was owed a base salary of $5 million this season. The move saved Pittsburgh $4.175 million in cap space prior to roster displacement, but created a $1.625 million dead money on the cap as well.

 

Still, I personally wouldn’t be surprised if Pittsburgh brought back Banner for the league minimum should his ACL injury be behind him at that point. He was a fan-favorite and recognized as a great guy to have in the locker room and would be welcomed back to the team with open arms. At the bare minimum, he could provide the team depth at tackle in training camp and through the preseason as he attempts to compete for a roster spot in 2022.

 

OT Daryl Williams (age 29)

If Pittsburgh were to look for a higher-quality option at tackle, Daryl Williams makes a lot of sense. He possesses the size (6’5 1/4″, 335lb) and length (35″ arm) you look for at the tackle spot and matches up perfectly with new OL Coach Pat Meyer’s philosophy when it comes to his OL having long arms. he has experience at both guard spots with a majority of his starts in the league coming at RT, making him a versatile blocker that can move inside or outside depending on what injuries occur upfront. With 74 starts under his belt. He is a capable pass protector and gets after it as a run blocker, being able to climb to the second level of the defense and play out in space.

Williams was cut this offseason in a cap-saving move by the Bills after rookie Rt Spencer Brown came into his own last season. Prior to the three-year worth $24 million he signed last offseason, Williams’ previous one-year contracts totaled $2.25 million and $6 million, respectively. Should he be had at a price point somewhere in that range, he could be a potentially valuable addition to the offensive line, providing likely high-end play at tackle or guard than current swing man Joe Haeg.

G Quinton Spain (age 30)

I thought about adding a true guard into the mix as Pittsburgh will likely address tackle in free agency at some point before the start of the regular season, but an addition to the interior shouldn’t be ruled out entirely. One name that makes some sense when reading the tea leaves if former Bengals OL Quinton Spain. At first, I disregarded Spain as a legit option due to his age and the fact the his mainly just a guard (although Cincinnati lined him up at RT some the past two seasons and experienced the wrath of T.J. Watt). Still, Pittsburgh hasn’t shied away from signing players from division rivals in the past, and Spain actually had a pre-draft visit to Pittsburgh back in 2015.

As mentioned earlier, Coach Meyer is a fan of OL with length, and Spain has that at 6’4 1/8″, 330lb with 35″ arms. He also is a fan of blockers that will fight and win dirty as long as they win the fight, and that matches up with Spain’s nasty blocking style. While an up-and-down pass protector, Spain has excelled as a run blocker since entering the league back in 2015 with the Titans, leading the charge up front for DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry as well as Joe Mixon last season for Cincinnati. Given Pittsburgh’s struggles at establishing the run, Spain could be an interesting addition as an experienced veteran who could push the likes of Kevin Dotson and Kendrick Green should he move to guard while coming at a likely discounted price.

What are your thoughts on the names provided above? Do you think these free agents could be potential names that make sense for Pittsburgh to possibly sign in the coming months? What are some other names you think are flying under-the-radar that could end up in Pittsburgh on the offensive side of the ball? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!

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