If the 2008 season proved that Mike Tomlin is not a man who coaches scared, then the 2009 might end up being the one where Tomlin and his cohort Kevin Colbert revealed that they have no fear when comes to personnel decisions.
The Steelers made headlines even before free agency began with a move that shocked much of Steelers Nation. They waived former first round pick Kendall Simmons, a move which left them with only one experienced NFL guard under contract.
- Steel Curtain Rising speculated this morning that the Steelers were making this move because they felt they could resign Chris Kemoeatu.
This turned out to be true, as Chris Kemoeatu signed a five year 20 million dollar contract that included a 3.855 million dollar signing bonus.
- But before this came to pass, Kemoeatu tested the free agent waters, entertaining an offer from the New York Jets.
The decision to cut Simmons without having Kemoeatu under contract amounted to a major risk on the part of Pittsburgh. Had Kemoeatu signed with another team, the Steelers would have been left with two undrafted guards.
Colbert and Tomlin knew this, yet made their move anyway. As they we would say in Spanish, “Tienen huevos de acero.” [Translated literally, that means “they have eggs of steel” I’ll leave it to you to figure out what “eggs” metaphor stands for….]
Did Kemoeatu Sign for Less?
The Post-Gazette reported that the offer from the Jets was for “about the same amount” as the Steelers offered. Yet his agent’s words are more nebulous.
The Jets were extremely aggressive and professional. At the end of the day, it was an opportunity to win another Super Bowl and stay with his teammates, along with a good, aggressive, solid offer from the Steelers. That was enough to keep him there.
The statement, “good, aggressive, solid offer from the Steelers. That was enough to keep him here…” does not lend one to think that the Steelers outbid the Jets.
It’s obvious that there was not a big difference, but perhaps Kemoeatu signed at a slight discount.
Did the Steelers Make the Right Move by Cutting Kendall Simmons?
Now that the initial shock (and subsequent panic) has worn off, the question remains, “were the Steelers right to waive Simmons?” After all, he was a first round draft pick and rookie of the year in 2002, and when Alan Fanaca refused to sign in 2007, they quickly moved to lock up Simmons.
- Two years later, they are showing him the door.
The question is difficult to answer.
Simmons came on strong as a rookie, saw his sophomore season marred by diabeties, and then was injured in 2004. He was good enough to start on the Steelers 2005 Super Bowl team, but the pass protection the following year was severely degraded. Anyone who hopped that replacing Max Starks with Willie Colon a guard would solve the problem was mistaken.
To say that this was all Simmons’ fault would be both wrong and unfair.
But Simmons has not distinguished himself as anything more than average over the last few years. (Indeed, sites like Steelers Today are far more critical of Simmons.)
- Clearly, Kendall Simmons was not indispensable.
The move also shows that the Steelers think the Chris Kemoeatu and Darnell Stapelton can and will improve.
Losing Simmons does complicate their already muddled salary cap picture, but it mainly adds to their waste money. Here the Steelers are also clearly thinking long term, assuming that the NFL and the NFLPA will extend their collective bargaining agreement either in 2010 or at some point soon after.
Steel Curtain Rising was not an overly enthusiastic backer of Kemoeatu, but the Steelers certainly did not break the bank for him, and his signing bonus is meager by today’s standards. Kemoeatu’s cap value will be about the same as Simmon’s would have been, and for the same value they get a younger player who has the potential to improve, whereas Simmons’ injuries were mounting and he wasn’t going to get any better.
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