Steelers Resign Casey Hampton, Franchise Jeff Reed

Running your own blog can be like wielding a double edged sword. Too frequently you get ideas that you just don’t have time to write about, an undying frustration, yet there are moments where that is a blessing.

And the Steelers decision to resign Casey Hampton, which the Steelers did on Thursday to the tune of 3 years for 21 million dollars with a 6.5 million dollar signing bonus, is a perfect example.

This time 24 hours ago, yours truly was set to populate Steel Curtain Rising with an entry warning of the dangers of resigning Casey Hampton.

Now that the Steelers have resigned him, I have changed my mind.

The Steelers decision to lock Hampton down for three years carries some risk, they all do, but on the whole the made the right decision.

The Down Side to Signing Hampton

Casey Hampton is 32. And he is big. So big that his weight going into training camp caused a discipline flare up between Hampton and Mike Tomlin.

The fact is that excess weight can cause a player to get old fast, think of Levon Kirkland.

Some of my skepticism is rooted in the fact that Steel Curtain Rising heartily cheered the decision to sign James Farrior to a multi-year deal when he was in his mid-30’s. Farriors’ play dropped of last year, and he is only beginning the new contract he signed.

Beyond that, although the average age of the Steelers defensive line corps did drop from 2008 to 2009, the starting front three is aging.

It would seem that the Steelers need to commit to investing in youth. At first blush signing Hampton for 3 more years appears to be a move in the opposite direction.

Why Signing Hampton Was the Right Move

But things are not always what they appear.

The Steelers do need to invest in youth, and ironically signing Hampton might give them a better chance to do that.

Franchising Hampton would have kept him around for 2010, any other alternative would have left a gaping hole in the Steelers defense. Ensuring that Hampton stays around for 2010 is one thing, but that only post-pones the inevitable, and the Hampton has no heir apparent. (Chris Hoke is 33.)

Had the Steelers used the franchise tag on Hampton, they would have been all but forced to draft a nose tackle in the first or second round of the 2010 NFL draft.

Drafting a nose tackle capable defensive lineman might still be a good idea, but it is never wise to put yourself in a position where you’re forced to draft exclusively for need.

The Steelers 1999 draft provides the perfect example. Desperate for wide receivers, the Steelers reached to pick Troy Edwards with the 13th pick, thereby passing up no less than six future Pro Bowlers in the process.

With Hampton under contract for three more years, the Steelers have the luxury of drafting a quality offensive lineman, shut down corner, stout inside linebacker or other premium player who happens to be on the board.

Jeff Reed Gets the Franchise Tag

The other good part about signing Hampton is that it allows the Steelers to use the franchise tag on Jeff Reed. Not only can the Steelers match any offer Reed gets, but any team wanting to sign Reed will have to give up two first round draft picks – that is not going to happen.

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