7 soon-to-be free agents the Steelers could bring back
Free agency has arrived, and while the Steelers could be looking toward adding new pieces to their arsenal, there are several components to their 2016 AFC Championship appearance who could be brought back.
Let’s examine some of those names, by splitting them into the “most likely” and “least likely”.
Lawrence Timmons – most likely
Timmons has been one of the highest paid Steelers over several seasons. Now north of 30, the team and player are at odds over his financial value to the team, though, most expect “Law Dog” to sign a deal to make him a Steeler for life.
The reason he could be entering free agency is to help gauge his potential market. If that amount is high, the Steelers could be holding off announcing other deals so they could retain Timmons.
There’s also the entire “Tomlin’s first draft pick” sentimental value that has been tossed around various social circles, as validation that Timmons won’t go elsewhere.
It’s truly going to come down to the dollars and cents, especially with the Steelers extending LB Vince Williams, a potential replacement for Timmons, to a three-year deal last offseason.
Landry Jones – most likely
Yes, despite some fans rabid obsession with disliking Landry, he’s still the best backup option available for the Steelers.
That does not mean, as we’ve said a million times, that he’s Ben’s future replacement. It means he’s a viable quarterback who can step in and still keep the team afloat; something he has done numerous times over the last two seasons.
Jones will test the market, but that’s to find his value: it could cost the Steelers more to not resign him, and start over with someone less experienced and/or knowledgeable with their playbook, particularly in game situations.
David Johnson – most likely
Someone I felt was a roster bubble player after signing a one-year minimum contract for 2016, DJ proved himself valuable in both run and pass situations; blocking, and even making the occasional catch.
His versatility as a hybrid fullback/tight end should see him back in the Burgh for at least one more season.
DeAngelo Williams – least likely
“Least likely” as of now.
For those who recall last season, Pittsburgh waited until after the draft to bring back QB Bruce Gradkowski. I speculate it was due to the Steelers looking at a few quarterbacks in the draft, seeing the names on their board vanish, and then deciding they wanted veteran depth at the position after missing out on their picks.
Williams, who will turn 34 in April, could fall into this same “wait and see” approach. I’m not saying he won’t be a Steeler in 2017, but there’s a solid chance the team checks out their options in the draft, with Le’Veon Bell only secured for a single season by the franchise tag.
Will he wait for Pittsburgh to make that decision?
Maybe. I expect other teams to be in a “wait and see” mode as well, considering Williams’ injury history, and age. He won’t be a feature back anywhere else, and much will depend on the market for a 34-year-old backup running back.
Behind Bell are Karlos Williams and Fitzgerald Toussaint. Williams, who signed a two-year futures contract his offseason, but was initially cut by Buffalo for showing up out of shape, and then suspended 10 games for violating the wellness policy (a suspension which has since been lifted). Toussaint’s days have been numbered for awhile, as the team even added Daryl Richardson, who had been out of football for three seasons, to compete with the former Michigan Wolverine in camp last year.
If the Steelers don’t draft someone, expect D-Will back. If they do take a back, D-Will may have to find employment elsewhere, or retire.
Jarvis Jones – least likely
Sorry folks, but the ship has sailed for the former first round pick. Several analysts are stating that the market for Jones is “higher than expected” even with Steelers GM Kevin Colbert suggesting he’d like to keep Jones around.
It’s very unlikely they will strike a deal with a player they already know in-and-out.
Ricardo Mathews – least likely
File Mathews under the “less likely” style approach as DeAngelo Williams. With an extra early pick available to them in the third round, the Steelers could take a late flyer on a position, such as defensive lineman, that they may not have had the luxury of doing otherwise.
The Steelers also found out that Letterius Walton, who helped fill in for Cam Heyward with Mathews, is a pretty good football player. Johnny Maxey, who was also called up from the practice squad to help the depth at defensive line, comes in as capable and cheap.
If the Steelers don’t add another piece to their D-line in the draft, and Mathews is still hanging around, he could be back. But it’s more or less unlikely he will be.
Markus Wheaton – least likely
Finally, Markus Wheaton’s situation is a blend of cost and a crowded depth chart which already has six other receivers under contract who played in 2016.
That doesn’t include Martavis Bryant, who could be reinstated and make the seventh experienced wide-out on the roster.
The only way a deal with Wheaton works out, is if he takes a contract for exceptionally less money than he would make elsewhere; which isn’t likely to happen.