INDIANAPOLIS -- The Pittsburgh Steelers avoided having to use their franchise player tag on nose tackle Casey Hampton, signing him Thursday to a three-year, $21 million contract. Instead, the team designated kicker Jeff Reed as its franchise player -- and sidestepped a potentially contentious situation with Hampton, whom the Steelers say they consider a foundation piece for their defense.
"It was very important to our organization to have a player of Casey's caliber signed for what we think is the rest of his career," Steelers Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert said Thursday morning at the NFL Scouting Combine. "He means a lot to our organization. Casey Hampton is the anchor of our defense and has been for a while."
Had the Steelers designated Hampton their franchise s player, they'd have had to pay him slightly more than $7 million in 2010. The new deal guarantees Hampton $11 million and would pay him $7 million per year for three years if he plays to its conclusion.
The Steelers will also keep Reed off the market with a franchise tender of $2.814 million, though Colbert said they're also working on a long-term deal with him.
"Our goal is to lock Jeff up and have him finish his career with the Steelers," Colbert said. "It's like Casey and his agent. As long as the player and agents are willing and want to stay with the team and the team wants them, you're going to get a deal done. And we want to keep Jeff as long as we can."