Key Additions: Mike Mitchell ($5M per year), Cam Thomas ($2M), LaGarette Blount ($1.9M), Lance Moore ($1.5M)
Key Re-Signings: Cody Wallace ($1.2M per year), Will Allen ($1M)
Key Losses: Emmanuel Sanders (Broncos),Ziggy Hood (Jaguars), Jerricho Cotchery (Panthers), Al Woods (Titans), Ryan Clark (Redskins)
Major Cuts: LaMarr Woodley ($8M cap savings- June 1), Levi Brown ($6.3M), Larry Foote ($1.2M)
Free Agency Thoughts:
The Steelers were certainly active right before the start of free agency, extending Heath Miller and Troy Polamalu while getting Ike Taylor to agree to a paycut. The two extensions were more about cap relief than anything else and will likely lead to more negotiating next offseason. The Steelers also made the big decision to release LaMarr Woodley as a June 1 cut to give them the space required to function for the season.
I think by grabbing Mike Mitchell the Steelers probably exceeded most people’s expectations for free agency. Mitchell is a bit of jack of all trades that can make some plays in coverage, be used to blitz the QB, and provide run support. $5 million a year is a little on the high side as last season was the first year he really had to justify the higher salary, but in terms of contract structure they could get out of the deal if they need to in 2015. They also kept the cap low enough in 2015 where no restructure should be needed to keep him.
The team also used the transition tag on LB Jason Worilds, which I think was the proper move. Pittsburgh needs to see if he is a one season wonder before committing long term to him. While those tags are often bad things to do with younger players, this is one of those cases where it is the correct move for the team, even if it costs them more money next year.
LaGarette Blount should fit in nicely with the offense. He’ll be paid $1.85 million this year with $2 million dangling in front of him for 2015, which should get the most out of him in 2014. Lance Moore should be a low cost replacement for the departing Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, neither of whome the Steelers should have retained. Cam Thomas should fit in as a low cost rotation player on the line.
Overall Grade: C
I think there are some opinions that the Steelers should have released at least one of those three players mentioned above to jumpstart the rebuilding process and because they did not then free agency was a failure. Woodley was the important one of the three to move, however, and I am not sure that the Steelers would have been able to replace any of the three at the cost they currently will get for them. In many ways they are simply deferring the cost on the cap for a year and that’s fine for a team that may think they can still compete. Given the constraints on the teams salary cap there was not much that was going to happen but they definitely made some improvements and did not compromise their future in doing so. If they finish out of the playoffs again in 2014 then you might begin to see some big changes and they did not do anything to keep that from happening which is a big positive for the team.