Since my offensive free agency series preview appeared at SCI.net, General Manager Kevin Colbert has gone on record as saying the Pittsburgh Steelers are in better salary cap shape than they have been in recent years.
He also said the Steelers could add a piece or two in free agency but that they would prefer to keep their own once again, but, that if they do make an addition on the free agent market, it will likely result in a subtraction from the current roster.
That’s no big news as everyone knows the team is going to part with cornerback Cortez Allen at some point this offseason. But, it also shows that the Steelers aren’t making a big splash, either.
With that in mind, here are some names up for consideration among free-agent defensive players who will be available:
Leger Douzable, DL, N.Y. Jets: I promise you I didn’t put his name on here just because it might be the most unique first and last name in the NFL if not all of sports. At 6-4, 285, Douzable has played inside and outside in stints with the Jets, Jaguars and Rams and Giants. Yes, he’s been around for a while. But that also shows he’s coachable. If you’re looking for a guy to play 10-15 snaps per game and take some pressure off Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, Douzable could be that guy. He’ll turn 30 this offseason, but he’s never been a guy who’s played a ton of snaps despite having some production. The mileage isn’t great and he’s missed just one game since 2010.
Al Woods, DL, Tennessee: Yes, Woods spurned the Steelers’ offer a couple of years ago to take a better contract with the Titans. And that forced the Steelers to move on and sign Cam Thomas. Ouch. Might the Steelers be ticked off about that? Possibly. But Woods offers some versatility, being able to play the nose or at end. He’ll turn 29 this offseason, but should still have some gas left in the tank.
Ahtyba Rubin, NT, Seattle: I’ve long liked Rubin and the 6-2, 325-pound fireplug is a free agent once again after signing a one-year deal last year with Seattle. He was, as usual, fairly disruptive and would be a quality replacement for Steve McLendon if McLendon signs elsewhere. Rubin also offers something from the nose tackle position as a pass rusher. He’s had 14 sacks since 2010, including two last season with Seattle while working in a rotation. He’ll turn 30 in July. McLendon turned 30 in January.
Jeremy Lane, CB, Seattle: Lane is a year removed from a broken arm and torn ACL suffered after making an interception in Super Bowl 49. He returned last season to play against the Steelers. He wound up playing in six games last season, intercepting a pair of passes – one on the misguided fake field-goal attempt by the Steelers - and defending six others. At 6-0, 190 pounds, Lane has good size and the former sixth-round draft pick is a solid cover guy in the slot. Can he play outside? I think so, and the soon-to-be 26-yeard-old has his best days are ahead of him.
Sterling Moore, CB, Tampa Bay: The Steelers brought Moore in for a visit last offseason but he signed a one-year, $1.525-million deal with Tampa Bay. At 5-10, 202 pounds, Moore’s size isn’t ideal, but he’s coming into his own at 26. He’s forced four fumbles in the past two seasons, including three for the Bucs last season to go with an interception. He started down the stretch on the outside for Tampa Bay last season, playing reasonably well. He’ll be looking for a multi-year deal this time around, but a two- or three-year contract at an average to 2 to $2.5 million per season could get it done.
Spencer Paysinger, ILB, Miami: Inside linebackers Sean Spence and Terence Garvin are both free agents and could move on. Paysinger is one of the top special-teams coverage guys in the league and would make an immediate splash there.
Patrick Robinson, CB, San Diego: Robinson showed up on this list last season and visited the Steelers before signing a 1-year, $3-million deal with San Diego. San Diego’s pass defense was solid last season and Robinson was a part of that. He made 10 starts and recorded 49 tackles, an interception a forced fumble and eight pass defenses. A former first-round pick of the Saints, Robinson now has 10 interceptions in the past five seasons despite missing most of 2013.
Josh Robinson, CB, Minnesota: A pectoral injury suffered in training camp limited Robinson to five games and two starts in 2015, but he logged nearly 700 snaps in 2014 and had three interceptions to go along with 40 tackles and eight pass defenses. Robinson (5-10, 199) also just turned 25, so his best football is still in front of him.
David Bruton, S, Denver: Can he forgive Cody Wallace for knocking his block off during a regular-season meeting with the Steelers? Can the Steelers forget that Bruton played that game with a fracture in his fibula because the Broncos didn’t have anyone left behind him? That’s toughness. At 6-2, 219 pounds, he definitely would bring some size to the secondary and he doesn’t have a starting job in Denver. Oh, he also was Denver’s nominee for Walter Payton Man of the Year. That matters as well. Bruton will be 29 and he’ll miss a tackle here and there, but he’d be a solid addition playing beside Mike Mitchell.
Michael Griffin, S, Tennessee: Griffin was released recently after nine seasons in Tennessee, including a couple of Pro Bowl campaigns. He has 25 career interceptions as a free safety and his signing would mean the interchangeable Mitchell would have to slide over to the strong side. Griffin has missed just four games in his career and has had more than 100 tackles in each of the past two seasons. Is he tired of losing? Does he want one last shot to win? He also wouldn’t factor into the NFL’s compensatory equation as a free agent signing since he was released.
(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)