Steelers Today - A Pittsburgh Steelers blog


Steelers sign Hampton, tag Reed

February 25, 2010 By: Admin Category: Draft/Free Agency

First I want to thank all of my readers for being patient while I was on hiatus.  Writing this blog takes a lot of time, so I usually take a vacation from the end of the season until the start of the NFL Scouting Combine.  The Combine starts today, so Steelers Today will officially start our 2010 coverage.

The most important news coming out of the Steelers organization is the signing of Casey Hampton.  I was certain the Steelers would use the franchise tag on Hampton.  After all, Hampton will be 33 years old this coming season, and he has struggled with physical conditioning at times.  Because of this, I thought the Steelers would place the franchise tag on Hampton to get one more year out of him.  In the meantime, I thought that they would draft a nose tackle to become Hampton’s long-term replacement.

But instead of doing what I anticipated, the Steelers have signed Hampton to a 3-year contract that is worth more than $21 million.   ChaChing!

Nose tackle Casey Hampton

By signing Hampton, the Steelers were left with the option of using the franchise tag on Ryan Clark or Jeff Reed.  The team chose Jeff Reed.

Reed’s agent was probably looking for a huge payday for his client, since the Oakland Raiders reset the price of kickers when they gave Sebastian Janikowski a ridiculous four-year, $16 million contract with $9 million guaranteed.  That’s waaaaaaaaaaaay too much to pay a kicker.

By franchising Reed, the Steelers will have to give him a one-year contract at the average of the highest 5 salaries at his position for 2009.  That will be much cheaper than matching the Janikowski dollars that will now become the asking price for decent kickers.

By making Reed the franchise player, the Steelers get a first-refusal right to match any offer sheet given to Reed by another team.  If the Steelers choose not to match the offer, they would receive two first-round draft choices as compensation.

With Hampton and Reed both locked up, Ryan Clark becomes the only veteran free agent still to be signed.  Word is that the Steelers have not even started negotiations with Clark’s agent.  This may be an indication that they may be considering taking a safety in this year’s draft.


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Paid to the Max!!!

February 19, 2009 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

February 19, 2009
By Donald Starver

Steelers’ offensive tackle Max Starks must have been born in a field of four leaf clovers.  And he must carry a rabbit’s foot in his pocket.  And he probably throws about 10 pounds of salt over his shoulder each morning.  If you can think of anything else that brings good luck, Starks probably does that too.

Last year, the Steelers placed the transition tag on Starks, and ended up paying him $6.9 million, even though he wasn’t able to win a starting position in training camp.  Most fans thought that Steelers’ Director of Football Operation, Kevin Colbert, had lost his mind.  How could he pay a backup more money than he was paying any of his STARTING offensive linemen?  Heck, he was paying him more than he was paying his Pro Bowl running back, his Pro Bowl linebacker, his Pro Bowl nose tackle, or his Pro Bowl safety.  That didn’t make any sense, did it?

Of course we all know that Marvel Smith ended up hurting his back (again), and Max Starks was called upon to fill in for Smith.  Starks started at left tackle in the Super Bowl, and he went from being the butt of jokes to a hero in the Steelers championship run.  How lucky can that guy be?

Well obviously he still has a little more luck to draw upon.  Today the Steelers announced that they have placed the franchise tag on….(drum roll, please)………Max Starks. 

The franchise tag basically means that Starks will be paid an average of the top 5 salaries at his position.  So a guy who couldn’t even win a position at RIGHT tackle in camp is guaranteed to be paid like the top 5 left tackles in the NFL.   Max Starks has to be the luckiest man in the world.

On both occasions, the Steelers’ hand was forced by the tenuous condition of Marvel Smith’s back.  If Smith’s back hadn’t been an issue, Starks wouldn’t have gotten the transition tag last year, nor the franchise tag this year.  Max Starks should buy Marvel Smith something very nice for Christmas.

By franchising Max Starks, the Steelers are all but announcing that they are not going to maintain Marvel Smith’s services (unless they can do so at a drastically reduced cost, which is unlikely).  They cannot afford to go into another season with two highly paid and highly redundant left tackles on their roster.

The fact that Marvel Smith has missed 19 games over the past two seasons may scare other teams away from making him a large contract offer.  However, reports have it that Marvel’s back is doing fine, and that he should be able to pass any team’s physical.  Smith has always been a good left tackle when healthy.  Good left tackles rarely hit the open market, so teams may bid on Smith’s services despite his history of back problems.  If they do, then it’s bye-bye Marvel.

The franchise tag will prevent Starks from becoming an unrestricted free agent, and will guarantee him approximately $8.5 million in salary.

There are two types of franchise tags, “exclusive” and “non-exclusive”.  “Exclusive” means that the player receiving the franchise tag cannot negotiate with other teams.  “Non-exclusive” means that the player may negotiate with other teams, but if he signs with another team, his original team has the right to match the terms of that offer.  If they choose to let the tagged player sign with another team, the team will be compensated with 2 first-round draft picks.

The tag that was placed on Starks was non-exclusive.  Thus, the Steelers could potentially still lose Starks.  However, they will now get two additional first round picks to soften the blow.

In a pure open market, I don’t think that Max Starks would have commanded as much money as he was paid last year.  Moreover, I don’t think he could command as much money as the franchise tag now guarantees that he will be paid this year.  Nobody would argue that Starks is one of the top 5 tackles in the NFL. He’s not. Yet, because of the Steelers’ situation with other offensive linemen, signing Starks was the right move in both cases.

Max Starks, you are the luckiest man in the world.

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