12 perfect low-cost free agents for the Steelers to sign

Arizona Cardinals linebacker Krys Barnes (51)
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Krys Barnes (51) / Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY

The new NFL league year kicks off on Tuesday, and given the Steelers cap space, they won’t have to be solely bargain hunters this year. That said, this is a franchise that has historically targeted players on veteran minimum deals, and they have gotten the most out of these cheap contracts.

I’ve combed through the current list of free agents in hopes of finding some potential cheap additions. The names I have I believe will sign for the minimum, or just above. They can help fill out the roster and provide the Steelers some depth ahead of the draft. Here are a dozen cheap free agents that the Steelers should try to sign.

DeeJay Dallas, RB

I’ve written about DeeJay Dallas in the past as a potential fit for this offense. For a third running back, he offers you everything you want. The occasional burst as a runner and a lot of special teams value. He is coming off his rookie contract, but I can’t see him fetching much more than the minimum despite his special teams value.

Ty Johnson, RB

Another name I highlighted earlier in the offseason, Ty Johnson is the opposite of Dallas. He is far more of an offensive threat but can contribute a little on special teams. That said, his speed would be a welcome addition to this offense. He can handle a few carries a week and help stabilize the position if an injury were to occur.

James Proche, WR

I don’t anticipate the Steelers being big players in the free-agent receiver market. While they could add a middling name, if they go bottom of the barrel, James Proche makes sense. He can play in the slot if need be and is a viable return man on special teams. Considering he didn’t catch a pass last year, I can’t foresee him getting more than the minimum.

Matt Hennessy, IOL

It would make a lot of sense for the Steelers to sign a low-level center on the cheap even if they intend to draft someone. I have circled Matt Hennessy as my guy for a few weeks now. The team liked him coming out of college and he played for Arthur Smith in Atlanta. He could be a cheap solution at center as a rookie comes along.

Henry Anderson, DE

While I am in favor of a significant upheaval along the defensive line, it may not be in the cards this offseason. Depth is still needed, and Henry Anderson would be an experienced option. He was on injured reserve last year, but he has the size this team likes and a slew of experience as a rotational lineman. He is older, but he fits what this team likes in defensive ends.

Shaq Lawson, EDGE

While it seems more than likely that the Steelers roll with Nick Herbig as their third pass rusher, they could still use a fourth name. Shaq Lawson never really put it all together as a former first-round pick, but he has settled into a rotational role with the Bills over the past few seasons and could do the same with Pittsburgh on the cheap.

Johnathan Hankins, NT

Pittsburgh could go in a more unique direction with their defensive line if they want. Johnathan Hankins is a nose tackle only, but he could take that spot from Keeanu Benton and allow Benton to shift to more of an end role. He has played on the minimum the past two seasons, and while he is coming off a strong season, I don’t anticipate him getting paid much more than that.

Krys Barnes, LB

At one point in time it looked like the Packers had struck gold with undrafted linebacker Krys Barnes, as he was a steady starter early in his career. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to find consistent work, but he played ok for the Cardinals last year. He can add depth to the linebacker room as well as play special teams.

Essang Bassey, CB

If the Steelers want to continue their string of cheap and lackluster slot cornerbacks, Essang Bassey would make a lot of sense. He has bounced between the Chargers and Broncos and has been a consistent player on the field. He isn’t flashy, but he can hold his own as a low-level defender and a plus special teams option.

John Johnson, S

The safety market is absolutely flooded right now with talent, and while that should lead to some good value for starters, it could also mean that the team can find some talented depth as well. John Johnson was a top safety early in his career but his play fell off with the Browns. He had a decent season with the Rams last year and would be a good fit as a third safety for cheap.

Adrian Amos, S

Everything I said for Johnson can also be applied to Amos. While a little longer in the tooth, Amos has been a steady player for his entire career. He can be had at the minimum and serve as a backup for both safety spots in 2024.

Daryl Worley, CB

If Pittsburgh wants depth at outside cornerback, Daryl Worley would make a lot of sense. While he hasn’t recaptured his earlier success, he has become a good special teams player who can hold his own in a reserve role. Think James Pierre but more viable on defense.

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No, these players won’t change the outlook of the team, but they can all be had on cheap contracts and help fill out the depth chart. Keep an eye on them after the initial wave of free agency passes as they could be cheap depth options or the Steelers.