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Steelers in Free Agency: Defense

In part two of the Steelers' look at free agency, Dale Lolley examines the defenders.

Last week, we looked at some potential offensive free agent additions the Pittsburgh Steelers could make when talks can begin on March 7. 

This week, we’ll look at the defensive side of the ball, but, of course, with so many young players on this defense, the Steelers likely will be looking to fill reserve roles on the roster.

Kendall Reyes, DL, Kansas City: The Steelers seem to like former San Diego defensive linemen. Reyes has bumped around the league the last two seasons after leaving the Chargers following the 2015 season. He suffered a groin injury against the Steelers in the opener in 2015 and barely played before getting released. But he signed with Kansas City last season and had 15 tackles and a sack in 10 games. This is a guy who had 13.5 sacks from 2012 through 2015 for the Chargers. He can get to the quarterback. And his limited playing time the past two seasons might make the price right. He’s still just 27.

Lawrence Guy, DE, Baltimore: The 6-4, 300-pounder has 5.5 sacks the past two seasons for the Ravens after bouncing around a bit earlier in his career. He would fit right in as a backup behind Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward. The Ravens likely want him back but because of a tight cap might not even be able to afford a modest contract.

Cornelius Washington, DE, Chicago: The Bears couldn’t really figure out how to use the 6-5, 292-pound Washington, who has the same body type as Tuitt and Heyward. He would fit right in as a rotational player with the Steelers. He had 20 tackles and two sacks last season. The lack of production/playing time in Chicago might make him something of a steal.

Devin Taylor, DE, Detroit: A true 4-3 defensive end, and if the Steelers are looking to improve their pass rush in their nickel Taylor is one way to do it. The 6-7, 275-pounder had seven sacks as a reserve in 2015 and 4.5 last season as a starter, so perhaps less is more. It would likely take a mid-level deal, but as a guy to come in and rush the passer 20 to 25 times per game, Taylor has shown he can produce.

John Simon, OLB, Houston:  Still just 26, Simon would give the Steelers somebody to immediately pair with Bud Dupree at outside linebacker, with James Harrison mixed in. The Steelers likely know plenty about this former Ohio State star and Youngstown native, given their relationship with the OSU program. He has 8.5 sacks the past two seasons despite battling some injuries last season and starting just 13 games, which could make the contract reasonable for a guy who could be ready to break out. He made $1.67 million last season.

Alex Okafor, OLB, Arizona: Okafor could probably use a change of scenery just like Jarvis Jones. The only difference is that Okafor has had some production. He had 8.0 sacks in 13 games - 12 starts - for Arizona in 2014 before falling off to 31 tackles and two sacks in 13 games in 2015. Okafor was pushed out of the starting lineup last season and had 13 tackles and 3.5 sacks in limited playing time. He had a minor run-in with the law for running from police in 2015 after they were called to a nightclub.

Josh Martin, OLB, Jets: Martin is officially listed as an outside linebacker but where he makes his mark is on special teams. He was one of the league leaders with 14 special teams tackles in 2016. He’s bounced around a bit because of that, but you need guys like Martin if you’re going to be a good team.

Micah Hyde, DB, Green Bay: A a safety by trade but Hyde also has played as a nickel back and also returned kickoffs and punts. Think the Steelers could use someone capable of doing all of those things? Hyde has six interceptions the past two seasons. He’s also averaged 23.9 yards per kick return in his career and 9.7 yards per punt return with three scores. Hyde will be a little pricey. He made $587,000 last season. Something in the four-year, $16 to $20-million range might get it done for the 26-year-old, who would replace Will Gay as the nickel back while also providing backup safety help and returns.

Michael Thomas, S, Miami: The Dolphins Good Guy Award winner was forced into action last season because of injuries and received valuable experience. More importantly, Thomas is a special teams ace, finishing second in the NFL last season with 19 tackles. You can never have enough solid special teamers or good guys on your roster. And with Shamarko Thomas possibly gone, the Steelers could use a special teams ace.

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