Visit NFL from the sidelines on the new Observer-Reporter site:

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

With the Super Bowl now completed, teams will begin to turn their attention to the NFL draft and free agency, which begins in five weeks.

Up first will be the NFL combine in Indianapolis in a couple of weeks.

But teams also will begin attempting to work out deals with players before they hit the free agent market.

Here's a look at where the Steelers stand in free agency and some odds on who will be back and who will not.

Jason Worilds: For all of the complaints about Worilds' play, he matched Cameron Heyward for the team lead in sacks with 7.5. And Worilds had one taken away from him in Atlanta that shouldn't have been - as the NFL basically agreed when it did not fine him for his hit on Matt Ryan. The big question for the Steelers is do they give Worilds a second contract or attempt to tag him again as they did in 2014? He cost them $9.5 million last season playing under the transition tag, which is too much money. The Steelers likely can't afford that. But they also can't afford to lose one of their proven pass rushers. Perhaps a five-year deal worth $30 million that includes a $12-$15 million signing bonus would get it done. Worilds is still just 26 - he turns 27 in March - and his best football is still in front of him. But he might want to test the free agent waters. Chances of re-signing 50-50

James Harrison: Harrison was one of the better stories for the Steelers this season, recording 5.5 sacks after signing following the team's third game. But he'll turn 37 in May. Harrison is a workout fanatic and after initially saying there was no way he'd return, I think he'd like to come back. But 37-year-old players have a tendency to break down and the Steelers didn't want Harrison to be a full-time player last season - even though he certainly was at times. Harrison would serve as a fallback option if Worilds doesn't re-sign, but it would also force the team to once again draft an edge rusher high - either in the first or second round and hope he can catch on sooner than Jarvis Jones has. I don't think he's back if Worilds re-signs, however, since the pull of Keisel, Polamalu and Taylor, along with Dick LeBeau, won't be there any longer. Chances of re-signing 30-70

Arthur Moats: An all-around nice guy and a good locker room presence, Moats filled in admirably at times last season at outside linebacker. But he's more of a depth guy and special teams player. The Steelers want him back. Chances of re-signing 80-20

Brice McCain: A revelation at cornerback last season. McCain was better than advertised. But he still has his limitations. Ideally, he's a third or fourth corner. But the Steelers were so thin at the position last year he was forced to start. Chances of re-signing 80-20

Ike Taylor: Ike, it's been fun. But it's over. The talk of moving to safety is silly. The Steelers want guys in their secondary moving forward that can force turnovers. Taylor has never been that guy. Chances of re-signing 0-100

Will Allen: All he does is what's asked of him. The Steelers liked Allen's ability to be in the right spot so much that they kept on playing him over Shamarko Thomas when Troy Polamalu was out. But Allen is getting up in age. Chances of re-signing 60-40

Darrius Heyward-Bey: Yes, he didn't offer much in the passing game. But he wasn't asked to do much there. What he was asked to do was be a core special teams player. And Heyward-Bey did that quite well. He fits in well in the locker room as well. Chances of re-signing 75-25

Matt Spaeth: Spaeth has turned into one of the best blocking tight ends in the league, which is what the Steelers drafted him for in the first place. But he's also 31, so age could be a factor. Spaeth doesn't give much in the passing game, but like DHB, he wasn't asked to do much there, either. Chances of resigning 75-25

Ben Tate: Tate basically got a one-game tryout in the playoffs and was OK, though he did fumble. He was cut twice last season, so his price tag shouldn't be too great. But does he envision himself as a starter? Or would he buy getting Le'Veon Bell's scraps? It's possible, but he didn't like not being the guy in Cleveland. A younger player who can also play special teams might be a better choice to back up Bell. Chances of re-signing 30-70

Michael Palmer: Palmer's one of those guys who you look to cut every year in training camp and then you look up seven or eight years later and he's still on the team. He's a decent special teams player and OK as a receiver. But a younger TE might push him off the roster. Should be an easy re-signing, however, to a cheap one or two-year deal. Chances of re-signing 70-30

Greg Warren: The Steelers really, really, like Warren as their long snapper. They feel he's one of the best in the business. I don't study the position to know whether that's true or not, but they seldom have snapping issues. Chances of re-signing 100-0 (Editor's note" Re-signed Feb. 4 to a one-year deal)

Restricted Free Agents
The restricted free agents are Antwon Blake, Will Johnson and Robert Golden. All three are valuable members of the team and will likely be tendered offers.


marc said...

worilds would be crazy to not test free agency to just get a sense of what is out there. unless, of course, the steelers give him a big contract offer.

it was interesting watching the super bowl and realizing each team had a shut down corner. both played well forcing offenses to go elsewhere. what an affect it can have for a defense. I hope the steelers can find/develop one soon.

Anonymous Brian said...

I know he's not a free agent, Dale, but what are the odds of Polamalu coming back? (I think he should be in the Ike category.)

Other random roster spot thought: If Dri Archer can't show he can be both kick and punt returner next summer, I don't think he should have a spot.

Dale Lolley said...

I don't think Polamalu will be back. But he's not a free agent, so he's not on the list.

Same goes for Keisel.

marc said...

What are the FA options for OLB if worilds leaves?

kyle said...

These are the Unrestricted Free Agents at OLB. Some Steeler fans have gotten it in their heads that the front office could go after Justin Houston who very well might be the highest-priced free agent this year. That does not seem likely to me. A lot of not very impressive former first round picks on this list. Off the top of my head, Brandon Graham and Sean Weatherspoon.

John Abraham, Arizona Cardinals
Sam Acho, Arizona Cardinals
Marcus Benard, Arizona Cardinals
Kroy Biermann, Atlanta Falcons
Chase Blackburn, Carolina Panthers
Lance Briggs, Chicago Bears
Bruce Carter, Dallas Cowboys
Jonathan Casillas, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Justin Durant, Dallas Cowboys
Dwight Freeney, San Diego Chargers
Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles
Geno Hayes, Jacksonville Jaguars
Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs
Colin McCarthy, Tennessee Titans
Pernell McPhee, Baltimore Ravens
Derrick Morgan, Tennessee Titans
Brian Orakpo, Washington Redskins
Ashlee Palmer, Detroit Lions
Spencer Paysinger, New York Giants
Brooks Reed, Houston Texans
O'Brien Schofield, Seattle Seahawks
Lawrence Sidbury, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dan Skuta, San Francisco 49ers
Malcolm Smith, Seattle Seahawks
J.T. Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars
Sean Weatherspoon, Atlanta Falcons
Jacquian Williams, New York Giants
Jason Worilds, Pittsburgh Steelers

Anonymous said...

Orakpp, mcphee, Sheard in that order. Graham and Houston aren't going anywhere. Hali may have something in the tank if they cut him to save space

marc said...

I think sheard would be a great pick up for the steelers, if possible. though he played every game for the browns this season, he was often in a rotation with mingo and under-utilized, imo.

marc said...

I think sheard would be a great pick up for the steelers, if possible. though he played every game for the browns this season, he was often in a rotation with mingo and under-utilized, imo.

Dale Lolley said...

The Ravens aren't going to let McPhee walk and Houston's going to get a monster deal.

I doubt KC lets him walk. In fact, look for them to release Hali in order to keep Houston.

If that happens, Hali would be the guy I would go after.

Anonymous said...

With as many free agents as the Ravens have, McPhee might slip through. Of course, he's better against the run than as a pass rusher but with 92 probably not returning (barring injury), some run help would be nice.

Hali is intriguing, since he probably has more in the tank than a 37 year old Harrison, is a proven commodity, and had an injury last year that could drop his asking price considerably.

I'm more interested in the CB crop of FA's, but there aren't many that would be cheap+ decent.

As far as pipedreams like Houston and Revis- I hear Jordan Cameron wants out of Cleveland.......

Lance Stalnaker said...

Nice assessment Dale, I think the Steelers will make a reasonable play to keep Worilds, it's the Steelers way. I say they will not go more than 5 years and 35 million, but it will depend on the guaranteed money, I can't imagine he would not test free agency, unless he really wants to stay a Steeler. I am good if he stays, but it's not the end of the world if he does not. They have really made a play at OLB on their futures signings. They are a few key players on D from being a championship team again, and I expect some to step up from within. It is a testament to how the Steelers do business, two 8-8 seasons would be good for most and for us it is our rebuilding, we are spoiled fans for sure. Here we go!

marc said...

the rollins CB from Miami (OH) is getting a lot of recognition right now. based on what I read, he seems to be a good fit for the steelers defense. any chance he last to the later part of the second round?

Anonymous said...

Rollins is RAW and needs at 2 years of Carnell Lake University. Jalen Collins too.

Really wish we could make a play for Maxwell from the Seahawks or make a trade offer with TB for Verner (draft picks?)