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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Free agency look: kickers and tight ends

As I do every offseason, I’ll take a look over the next few weeks at the Steelers’ potential free agents and possible veteran replacements or upgrades.

Keep in mind that the Steelers have never been major players on the free agent market. So no matter how much you want them to go out and sign say, Terrell Owens, it’s not going to happen.

This week, we’ll take a look at the kickers and tight ends.

Steelers potential losses
Jeff Reed, PK, unrestricted
Daniel Sepulveda, P, restricted
Matt Spaeth, TE, restricted

The Steelers have made re-signing Reed one of their offseason priorities and should be able to get something done.

Despite his legal problems – at some point, Reed is going to have to grow up – he’s been one of the more reliable kickers in the NFL. Yes, he missed a couple of kicks in Chicago this season, but he’s made a lot more of those kind of kicks that he’s missed during his career. And as we saw throughout this season’s playoffs, that’s a rare commodity.

Sepulveda is heading into his restricted free agent season, while Spaeth will get a second season of restricted free agency when no deal is reached on a collective bargaining agreement before the March 4 deadline.

The Steelers will make tender offers for both.

Sepulveda has struggled somewhat in cold weather, but as he gets the opportunity to do more of it, he should get better. In addition, he was coming off knee surgery on his plant leg in 2009 and should be considerably stronger in 2010.

Spaeth doesn’t do any one thing particularly well, but he’s a big target and has proven to be a reliable pass catcher when filling in for Heath Miller. He’s too tall to ever be a great blocker - it’s just too easy to get up underneath him – but the Steelers will likely use David Johnson more as their blocking tight end in 2010.

So what happens if talks with Reed break down?

There are a number of solid kickers who could be on the free agent market March 4.

Leading that group is Cincinnati’s Shayne Graham. I know what you’re thinking, Graham missed some big kicks for the Bengals in the playoffs this season.

But he’s also one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history and has a history of kicking at Heinz Field and other cold weather cities. There are conflicting reports about whether the Bengals will make an effort to re-sign him, but if they don’t, he would be a good replacement for Reed.

Arizona’s Neil Rackers will also be an unrestricted free agent and it wouldn’t be a stretch to see the Cardinals and Steelers basically trade kickers. Remember, former Steelers special teams coach Kevin Spencer is now with the Cardinals and he and Reed had a strong relationship.

Rackers had some groin injury problems in 2009, but has been a very productive kicker for the Cardinals. He’s also averaged nearly one touchback per game for his career.

Jay Feely has kicked for four NFL teams, most recently the Jets, for who he has made 54 of 64 field goals in the past two seasons. In addition, he’s also had 17 touchbacks in the past two seasons.

Like Graham, Feely missed a couple of field goal attempts in the Jets’ final playoff game, but one was over 50 yards and his career percentage of 81.6 percent is very good.


marc said...

it wouldn't bother me one bit if we lose spaeth. he's an average TE we could replace by pulling a name out of hat.

reed can be an idiot, be he kicks well at heinz field and that's a home field advantage. he must get deeper on the kickoffs, obviously.

i'm disappointed in sepulveda. if he doesn't break through as a top punter this year then reaching for him in the draft will end being a mistake.

Anonymous said...

Spaeth sucks

Dale Lolley said...

I'd be shocked if they didn't make a qualifying offer for Spaeth, despite his limitations. It's just what they do.

Anonymous said...

Spaeth is misused more than anything. He should be the #2 receiving TE, but Arians for some reason uses him as the #1 blocking TE.

When he filled in for Heath a couple years ago, he played OK.

Mizou said...

Anonymous #2 has it right. Remember that game against SD in the Superbowl year where, with a BROKEN HAND, he put up good numbers receiving? Spaeth is Miller Jr., and should be used that way. Nobody is going to argue that his value is as a blocker.

I really don't see why we can't toss in a few Colts-style plays with Miller and Spaeth lined up and going out for routes, or even split wide. Hell, have it as a hurry-up package like the Colts do.

The SKinley said...

He does have good height and hands...maybe Bruce can try to get him spread out close to the goal line for some jump balls? Seemed to work for Heap and the Ravens against us...then again, what didn't work against us this past year?

Anonymous said...

Here we are talking about passing and it seemed after this season most everyone on this board wanted us to run the ball more. We need a better blocking T.E. than Spaeth. Miller can be our go to T.E. I don't have a problem loosing Spaeth. Get BIG SNACK, Clark, and Reed sighned. We have bigger issues than Matt. After that start looking for a corner and Aaron's replacement.

Dale Lolley said...

They've got Smith's replacement - Ziggy Hood.

Patrick said...

I'm curious to see what happens in the draft if the Steelers franchise Hampton. Do they even draft a NT? I would think so, but I don't think it will be a high pick because that would require 3 NT's on the roster.

If Hampton only signs the franchise deal, then they obviously need someone to groom, but I just don't see them carrying 3 NT's unless the draft pick can make some serious impact on 3rd down.

I think this indicates they'll get Hampton signed to a 3 or 4 year deal and stay with him and Hoke. Any thoughts Dale?

Another question - is Stephen Neal going to break the bank in FA? I don't know much about him, and not even sure if he plays RG or LG. (here come the flamers). But it seems like he could be a nice veteran pick up if he would be relatively cheap. My guess is no and that he would get a deal similar to what Faneca got with the Jets.

Dale Lolley said...

If they franchise Hampton, they'll still draft a NT. It just may be a little later than it would be if he wasn't under contract - unless that's where the value is.
There's talk that Neal may retire, but that could be something his agent is telling him to say.