With free agency ready to begin in a little more than two weeks, the Steelers are in no rush to sign any of their potential unrestricted or restricted FAs.
I could find no negotiations going on with any of them. That report that surfaced somewhere last week that the Steelers were negotiating with Ike Taylor for a new contract? Not true. They have not talked.
Free agency changed last year when the NFL entered the final year of the CBA. Instead of four years needed to become a UFA, it turned to six and that affected Willie Colon greatly. He lost potential millions of dollars in the deal because instead of being unrestricted and being able to court other teams, Colon was restricted and essentially could no and the Steelers decided not to negotiate a long-term deal with him.
We do not know what the new rules for free agency will be when a new CBA arrives. There might not even be a new CBA in time for there to be free agency Ė nothing can happen after March 3 except for the draft. Players whose contracts are up will be in limbo and besides drafting players in April, teams cannot sign them; they cannot sign undrafted rookies either.
So everything is on hold until there is a new CBA. Estimates for that have varied from mid-march until late August or early September. If itís the latter, itís likely there will be no free agency this year. What that would do to players like Colon and Ike Taylor and LaMarr Woodley and others is unknown. Must they sign another contract to play for their current team? Be given a week or so as free agents to consider other options? Thatís just one of many issues the league and players must work out if the lockout is extensive.
But as Bill Cowher would say, letís not deal with the what-if issues. Here is a list of various Steelers free agents and what kind they would be under the previous system, before the final capped year extended the UFA period by two years. So, the UFAs are those whose contracts have expired and have at least four years of service (Lawrence Timmons has four years in but as a first-round draft choice, he signed a five-year contract so he has one more to go). RFAs have three years of service in and a contract that is up. Exclusive rights are those with two years or fewer whose contract is up. Essentially, exclusive rights means they must sign with their current team unless they are released. RFAs can court other offers but their team has a right of first refusal and, if they waive that, would receive compensation in the form of draft picks.
Unrestricted Free Agents: Willie Colon, Nick Eason, Trai Essex, Keyaron Fox, Chris Hoke Anthony Madison, Mewelde Moore, Shaun Suisham, Ike Taylor, LaMarr Woodley, William Gay, Jonathan Scott, Daniel Sepulveda, Matt Spaeth.
Restricted Free Agents: Dennis Dixon, Tony Hills
Exclusive Rights: Doug Legursky