List all the inside linebackers the Pittsburgh Steelers should consider and Gerald Hodges isn’t making the cut.
The New Orleans free agent played in 11 games last season and recorded three tackles. Yep, three.
A player who a year before was considered one of the biggest upcoming defensive prospects in the country records three tackles in a season. Why? No one seems to have any idea.
The former Penn State star and former fourth-round draft pick has dealt with everything in his short NFL career. Earning a starting job, being injured, being injured again and then being cut. But even with obstacle after obstacle, Hodges found himself competing for opening snaps everywhere he went.
Until last season. For some reason, Hodges wasn’t a part of the New Orleans defense that struck the country by storm. A young group of guys led by some of the flashiest rookies in the country, but no six-year vet.
That’s fine. Hodges hits the market a player who could or could not be on the backend of his career. That risk doesn’t get you big contracts, which means it doesn’t bring expectations of them.
Pittsburgh needs to resign Le’Veon Bell. Right now, even with restructured contracts, they’re still around $4 million short of a deal Bell is willing to think about.
So, obviously, the money is low. Pittsburgh needs to fill the shoes of Ryan Shazier without spending a fortune, which means they one of two options. Either find someone who can start for cheap, or draft someone early and hope they’re a star from day one.
Finding someone in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft is going to be easy. Rashaan Evans, Malik Jefferson, so many players will be around that could find their way to the Steelers at No. 28.
The problem is Bell. They still need to come up with another $4 million to sign Bell.
Which means cap casualties are coming, and number one on that list is probably going to be Mike Mitchell. The safety has played okay since joining the team in 2014, but no where near the level they need him to be at.
After they make the move to cut him, Pittsburgh’s going to need a safety to play alongside Sean Davis. Depending on how the first round of the draft works out, their best bet might be to take a defensive back in the first and fill the inside linebacker in the second.
Meaning whoever is headed to the Steel City may or may not be ready to take on a full workload fresh out of college. So, instead of taking the chance of leaving the hole open in the middle, Pittsburgh could be searching for that maybe/maybe not free agent.
There are names out there the Steelers would love to have. Todd Davis, Avery Williamson, Demario Davis could step in and make this defense one of the best in football.
But they’re expensive, and Pittsburgh can’t afford expensive. Not unless they want to test fate and see how serious Bell is to hanging up his cleats for the 2018 season, or his career.
Bringing us full circle to Gerald Hodges; the man who’s not worth much, but could change a defense anywhere in the NFL.
The Steelers will have somewhere around $18-20 million in cap space by the summer. Bell is going to take a chunk of that, but hopefully not more than $14 million. Perfect, because Hodges isn’t worth more than 3, maybe $4 million after whatever happened in New Orleans.
What direction Pittsburgh takes is still out there to be discovered, but if they’re thinking veteran, they should be thinking Hodges.
Take care of Bell and whatever else needs to be attended to on this roster. Then, go out and find a linebacker in the second round of the NFL Draft. And finally, sit Gerald Hodges down, tell him if he wants a Super Bowl ring he needs to join this team, and get a deal done.