With less than a week before the start of NFL free agency, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been busy trying to lock up the players they must retain in order to be competitive next season.
Of course, the big (in more ways than one) name of the bunch is nose tackle Casey Hampton. A five time Pro Bowler, Big Snack is arguably the best NT in all of football. In the 3-4 defense favored by Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau, the nose tackle is doubly important. If you don’t have a fatass up the middle to clog up running lanes and occupy two linemen so the linebackers can shoot the gaps, you’re in major trouble.
With more and more teams copying the Steelers by switching to a 3-4, the premium on high quality prototypical NTs is at an all time high. Luckily, teams have a Franchise tag which would’ve been slapped on Hampton faster than doughboy can clean out a buffet. Recognizing the situation, both sides have chosen to reach a compromise. Early this morning, Hampton and the Steelers compromised to the tune of a three year/$21 million dollar deal.
It’s a good deal for both sides. Hampton’s 33 and grossly obese so I’m guessing three more years is probably the outside limit of how many more quality seasons he has left. Of course, 2009 saw him set career highs in terms of tackles and forced fumbles. Then again, he was playing for a new contract and we all know how that goes. However, considering the Steelers have no viable replacement waiting in the wings, allowing Hampton to reach free agency would’ve been an unmitigated disaster. Had they used the Franchise tag, his 2010 salary would’ve been about $7 million. So they basically paid what they were going to pay anyway without worrying about getting into a bidding war with 31 other teams.
Signing Big Snack leaves only two players on Director of Player Personnel Kevin Colbert‘s wish list: Ryan Clark and Skippy Reed. Thanks to that senile old coot Al Davis throwing kicker contracts totally out of whack, the Steelers couldn’t reach a deal with Jeff Reed by this afternoon. So instead he’s the one who’s been nabbed with the Franchise tag. Yes, you read that right. Skippy Reed is YOUR Franchise player.
And as anybody who saw kickers shank chip shot after chip shot in this year’s playoffs will attest, it’s a smart move. Good teams need a dependable kicker (even one that tackles like a little girl). Since the difference in salary between a Franchised kicker and a Transition tagged one is only about $300,000, there was no reason not to use it on Skippy. I’m sure the female members of Steeler Nation will rest easier at night now that they know they’ll have their favorite piece of man candy roaming the sidelines for at least one more year.
Which leaves us with Ryan Clark. The Steelers have said they want to re-sign him but won’t use either tag to do it. Obviously they like him but only so much. I’m guessing Colbert realizes, much like we all did, that Troy makes everybody in the secondary look better than they are. Since Clark already knows LeBeau’s complicated defense, it’d be nice to keep him. But they aren’t going to break the bank over it. Frankly, I couldn’t care less if he stays or if he goes. Remember, the Steelers brought him in as a cheap no-name when their starting safety Chris Hope priced himself out of their range. I would shed no tears if history were to repeat itself.