Almost six years ago (!), shortly after the Steelers and Bill Leavy beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, I wrote a post on HSS (remember that place?) about the impending free agents, and which ones the organization should target for new contracts.
It’s funny to now read things like “I have Quincy Morgan above Randle El because I think Morgan has a chance to be a better number two receiver, but that means that the special teams will take a big hit if Antwaan doesn’t re-sign.”
I published that post on February 9, 2006. Now that Tim Tebow has ended the 2011 Steelers’ season in truly inglorious fashion, we’re afforded the opportunity to get a jump-start on the offseason. Ted has gone into great detail about the salary-cap trouble that awaits the Steelers, and on Thursday, Ed Bouchette listed the 11 players who could possibly become free agents in the near future:
The unrestricted free agents are: Charlie Batch, Jerricho Cotchery, Dennis Dixon, Trai Essex, William Gay, Chris Hoke, Byron Leftwich, Anthony Madison, Mewelde Moore, Daniel Sepulveda and Max Starks.
The restricted free agents are: Ramon Foster, David Johnson, Doug Legursky, Keenan Lewis, Jamon Meredith, Ryan Mundy and Mike Wallace.
Feel free to make your lists in the comments.
Here’s my first pass (I’m not considering any salary-cap implications, just the players I’d like to see back in Pittsburgh, from most likely to least likely):
Unrestricted free agents:
1. Max Starks. I know the coaches don’t like him because he’s chubby but the o-line went from F- to C the moment he stepped on the field. That unit should strive for mediocrity and Starks provides that.
2. William Gay. Hard to imagine that the secondary now has plenty of depth. I think Gay is most valuable as a nickel back, and if Keenan Lewis or one of the other young guys can win the No. 2 job, Gay will have an important role as the No. 3 defensive back.
3. Jerricho Cotchery. He’s the new Hines Ward. Not nearly the blocker, but clearly became a favorite of Ben down the stretch.
4. Chris Hoke. (Assuming he has anything left in the tank and doesn’t retire.) Pittsburgh could be without Aaron Smith and/or Casey Hampton depending on perceived value/cap hit.
5. Trai Essex. He’s a body who can play the interior line positions and, god forbid, left tackle.
6. Byron Leftwich. Seems happy to be a backup and Chaz might finally retire, right? I’m speculating about Batch’s future, and honestly, I’m indifferent to whether he or Byron serves as Ben’s No. 2. Guessing Dennis Dixon will want a chance to play elsewhere, but the Steelers will have to think about getting younger at the position.
7. Charlie Batch. Interchangeable with Byron.
8. Mewelde Moore. He was a great free-agent acquisition a few years ago but his career has probably run its course with Rashard, Isaac, Dwyer, Batch and Clay all on the roster.
9. Daniel Sepulveda. Love this guy but he can’t stay healthy. Kapinos can and I don’t really see the difference between the two.
10. Dennis Dixon. Guessing he’s gone.
11. Anthony Madison. Have to assume he’s an extreme longshot to make the squad out of training camp.
Restricted free agents:
1. Mike Wallace. I admit to being angry enough at him during the Broncos game that I thought he should’ve been benched, but Wallace is one of the league’s best receivers. He just has to be more consistent. That said… if the Steelers sign him to a first-round tender, I might be willing to let him walk for the first-round compensation.
2. Keenan Lewis. Dude could be starting in 2012.
3. Doug Legursky. Like Essex, Dougie can play every interior line position. The difference: he’s pretty good.
4. Ryan Mundy. I like Mundy and think he does well when he’s out there. He forced two fumbles against the Broncos, although he was also out of position when Ike Taylor got burned one last time in Denver.
5. Ramon Foster. Another warm body who got better over the course of the season. He’s not great, but he’s average which again is what the Steelers o-line should aspire too.
6. David Johnson. He should probably be higher for his H-backin’ abilities. That said, he dropped his share of passes in 2011 and I’d like to see Weslye Saunder get more snaps next season.
7 . Jamon Meredith. Never got to see him play. Assuming he’s on the roster for “Oh god, we have no one left” situations.
Alright, folks, have at it.