The start of the 2023 league year is just around the corner for the NFL, and with that comes the start of free agency.
Teams can begin negotiating with players on March 13 ahead of the official start of free agency on March 15. While the Pittsburgh Steelers were uncharacteristically active in free agency last season, that might not be the case this time around under new GM Omar Khan and assistant GM Andy Weidl.
The Steelers have a handful of moves to take care of in-house, like retaining the likes of cornerback Cameron Sutton, safeties Damontae Kazee and Terrell Edmunds, and defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi, as well as extending outside linebacker Alex Highsmith.
But, should the Steelers be active in free agency early on in search of plugging some holes on the roster, one name stands out above the rest for Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz. Writing an article for ESPN Wednesday identifying one player every team must sign, Schatz believes the Steelers must sign veteran inside linebacker T.J. Edwards in free agency.
“Originally we planned to suggest 33-year-old Lavonte David for the Steelers, as he’s still playing at a high level. However, signing a veteran doesn’t really seem like the Steelers way,” Schatz writes regarding the move the Steelers need to make. “They’re more likely to sign a younger player still in his prime. So, how about the 27-year-old Edwards, who started for Philadelphia for the past three years. Edwards is not a supreme run-stopper, but he’s excellent against the pass. Last season, he allowed just 3.6 yards per pass in coverage with a 74% success rate.”
The Edwards pairing with the Steelers is starting to become a common one the closer and closer we get to free agency. Edwards was a mid-round draft pick by the Eagles in 2019 when Weidl was in charge of setting the draft board for the Eagles, and he turned out to be a really solid starter overall for a team that eventually made it to the Super Bowl this past season.
Edwards was very good in 2022 for the NFC champion Eagles, earning a PFF grade of 84.8 overall, which included an 83.4 run defense and a 79.7 in coverage. Based on his history with Steelers’ new assistant GM Andy Weidl, as well as the clear need for the Steelers to figure out the inside linebacker position, there’s certainly some dot-connecting that is coming into play with the pairing of Edwards and the Steelers.
With the likes of Robert Spillane, Devin Bush, and Marcus Allen all hitting free agency at the position this offseason, there’s a clear need for the Steelers to add a piece or two around Myles Jack (assuming he’s not a salary cap cut) and promising young linebacker Mark Robinson.
Edwards make a ton of sense for the Steelers, as do a handful of other inside linebackers like Tennessee’s David Long Jr., Philadelphia’s Kyzir White and Dallas’ Leighton Vander Esch. We’ll see what the Steelers do at the position, whether that’s addressing it in free agency or the draft. Good news is, there are plenty of options out there at a real position of need for Pittsburgh.