Gildon to be replaced?

If the Steelers' first targeted free agent likes what he hears Thursday, the team will be saying goodbye to Jason Gildon soon thereafter.<br><br> The Steelers are bringing Indianapolis Colts left outside linebacker Marcus Washington in for a visit Thursday. He's first on a list of scheduled visits that will target holes on the defensive side of the football.

Following the visit by Washington, the Steelers will host cornerbacks Fernando Bryant, Reggie Howard and David Barrett.

Washington, however, is the current focus. A four-year veteran out of the University of Auburn, where he played defensive end, Washington has started at linebacker the last three seasons for the Colts and the 6-foot-3, 247 pounder has averaged 98 tackles and 5.33 sacks in those three seasons.

Last season, Washington made 81 tackles, had 6 sacks and forced 3 fumbles.

Considered the Colts' best linebacker the last two seasons by the Steelers' front office, Washington has been allowed to test the open market because of cap woes brought about by the Colts' negotiations with quarterback Peyton Manning.

The Colts had slapped the franchise tag on Manning, but came to terms with their quarterback Tuesday, one day before the start of the free-agent season. The deal cleared $10.4 million in cap space for the Colts, who may still want Washington back.

According to the Colts' web site, Washington and cornerback Cliff Crosby will test the market "with the idea the team could try to re-sign them."

The Colts re-signed veteran defensive tackle Josh Williams on Monday to keep him off the open market. They then re-signed Manning on Tuesday and offered contract tenders to five restricted free agents.

In Wednesday's edition of the Indianapolis Star, Washington's agent, Pat Dye, said "We have not had any contact (with the Colts) during this process. My sense is they believe Marcus is a fine player and a fine person. But given what his price might be at that position on the open market, they don't believe they can be competitive in the marketplace."

Washington, 26, would presumably replace Gildon in the Steelers' lineup, as well as on the roster.

Gildon, who'll turn 32 on July 31, is scheduled to earn $3.65 million in salary this coming season.

His production slipped considerably last season. The franchise's all-time sacks leader recorded only 62 tackles and 6 sacks last season while forcing 1 fumble and intercepting 1 pass.

Gildon still has three years remaining on a five-year contract he signed prior to the 2002 season. He was given a signing bonus of $6.5 million and the Steelers are still on the books for $3.9 million of that bonus.

If Gildon is cut before June 1, all of the remaining bonus money would count against this year's cap. If he were to be cut after June 1, $1.3 million would count against this year's cap and $2.6 million would count against the 2005 cap.

As for the cornerbacks, Bryant, who'll turn 27 on March 26, is the most well known of the group. A first-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1999 out of Alabama, the 5-10, 180-pounder has only 5 career interceptions as a starter throughout his five-year pro career.

Last year, Bryant played in all 16 games and had 70 tackles and 1 interception.

Barrett, 26, has started 39 games at right cornerback over the last three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. A four-year veteran, the 5-10, 208-pound Bryant has 6 career interceptions since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2000 draft out of Arkansas.

Howard, who'll turn 27 on May 17, is a 6-0, 190-pound veteran of four NFL seasons. He's started 40 games during the last three seasons with the Carolina Panthers and has 5 career regular-season interceptions. Howard intercepted a pass in this past Super Bowl. It came on the heels of a 63-tackle, 2-interception season in which he started 15 games at right cornerback for the Panthers.

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