The first week of free agency unfolded as it typically does for the Steelers. Here’s why their moves weren’t out of the norm.
Some of the Steelers own players were re-signed; some players signed elsewhere; some free agents were signed by us; some contracts were restructured in order to free up space to re-sign or to sign the aforementioned players.
The Steelers handled the first week of free agency in a similar manner as we have done for the past several years. Starting with placing the franchise tag on Bud Dupree, our former first-round pick in the 2015 draft, the initial wave of free agency unfolded as it probably was expected to unfold, at least for me.
Depending on how old you are and depending on how long you’ve been a Steelers fan, you know that we have never been and probably never will be ‘big players’ in free agency. For the past several years, we have opted to try to re-sign our own pending free agents and to sign free agents that could be labeled as either ‘under the radar’ or ‘tier two’ free agents.
The Steelers re-signed Zach Banner, our reserve, ‘swing’ tackle and sixth 0-lineman in certain formations, tendered both Matt Feiler, our starting right tackle, and Mike Hilton, our ‘slot’ corner and ‘Blitzer’ extraordinaire. They also re-signed Kameron Canaday, our long snapper, and Jordan Dangerfield, our backup safety.
In addition to re-signing some of our own free agents, we signed Derek Watt, a fullback who most recently played for the LA Chargers and is the brother of T.J. Watt, our former first-round pick in the 2017 draft. Pittsburgh landed Eric Ebron, a Tight End who most recently played for the Indianapolis Colts, and then the Steelers did something that was, quite frankly, uncharacteristic in trading with our division rival, the Baltimore Ravens, to acquire Chris Wormley, a defensive lineman who played his college ball at Michigan.
Honestly, I did not see the Wormley trade coming, but he does add depth to the defensive line. As far as the other moves are concerned, they came as no surprise to me. The Steelers ‘modus operandi’ of late in free agency has been this: Re-sign our own free agents if we can, sign free agents from other teams to contracts that would not be considered prohibitive and, most importantly, restructure contracts in order to gain the necessary salary cap space to be able to do anything at all.
We can argue whether or not the restructuring of contracts is the right move, but, frankly, it is and has been the only move for the Steelers to make to free up significant cap space. Yes, the Steelers have had to release players as well to free up cap space, but those players who have been released were probably not going to part of the future plans anyway.
While not necessarily an exciting first week of free agency, it went as free agency typically goes for the Steelers. Perhaps the next phase of free agency will be more exciting but, somehow, I doubt it.