During Steelers OTA’s it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff as far as discerning what “real news” is out there, but ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler landed a legit story when he reported that Lawrence Timmons is willing to renegotiate his contract to stay in Pittsburgh.
Lawrence Timmons was the first draft pick of the Mike Tomlin era, whom the Steelers initially selected as an outside linebacker in the 2007 NFL Draft. Injuries limited Timmons playing time as a rookie, and in his second year he’d moved inside but failed to unseat starter Larry Foote.
The Steelers nonetheless were projecting Timmons as a starter heading into 2009, prompting Larry Foote to seek his release. Timmons did start in 2009, but drew mixed results and even split time with Keyaron Fox. Timmons bounced back in 2010, and was easily the team’s best defender during the first half of a season which saw Troy Polamalu win defensive player of the year honors.
In 2011, the Timmons signed a $47,795,750 dollar 6 year contract with the Steelers. Two years remain on that contract, and according to the site Over the Cap, Timmons cap values for 2015 and 2016 are $12,566,250 and $11,816,250. Only Ben Roethlisberger has a higher cap value for 2015 and only Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown have higher numbers for 2016.
Is Timmons Time in Pittsburgh Almost Up?
If Lawrence Timmons development was perhaps a little slow, he has unquestionably been the Steelers most consistent defender since 2012. Since that sesason, Timmons has hauled down 5 interceptions, recorded 11 quarterback sacks, forced 2 fumbles and recovered two, while leading the team in tackling.
- While the Steelers have been not overly sentimental about keeping aging players, they’re also not shy about paying productive veterans.
And Timmons has little or history with major injuries, so on the face of it, his future in Pittsburgh would be a no-brainer. But there are two X-Factors which complicate the picture.
The first is Ben Roethlisberger’s new contract. Roethlisberger’s new deal, while generally cap friendly, has a cap value that spikes to almost 24 million in 2016, a number that almost demands the Steelers made room elsewhere.
The second X factor is the depth chart behind Timmons. The Steelers drafted Ryan Shazier in 2014 and he is projected as Timmon’s co-starter. However, the Steelers also have Sean Spence and Vince Williams, both of whom made impressive strides in 2014, and both of whom still have “upside.”
- Success in the salary cap era is all about getting the most bang for your buck.
And while teams can get that bang for their salary cap buck in a number of ways, the easiest way is to get production out of draft picks while they’re still working on their rookie contracts. Sean Spence is entering his fourth year, so he’ll be looking at a second contract in 2016, but Vince Williams will still be playing on his rookie contract as will Ryan Shazier. Even if Spence can expect a salary bump, he’ll come more cheaply than Timmons due to his limited playing time.
Since the Freeman-McNeil verdict brought free agency to the NFL in 1993, the Steelers formula for success has been to build through the draft and target productive players with extensions before they hit the free agent market. Lawrence Timmons would seem to fit that bill.
Yet USA Today Steelers Wire editor Neal Coolong argues “It’s tough to see the Steelers looking to tack on more years when they’ve spent the last three seasons developing Sean Spence, Vince Williams and Ryan Shazier.”
Timmons has a close relationship with new defensive coordinator Keith Butler and explained his feelings to Fowler this way: “I’ve been here for nine years, I’ve got a house here, I’d like to keep that house. I’ve got a family here that loves it.”
Timmons confirms that he hasn’t heard any talk of renegotiations, which is no surprise, the Steelers have a long-standing policy of not extending player’s contract until they enter their final year. The first sign of the Steelers intentions towards Timmons will come from how they deal with Sean Spence.
Should the Steelers decide to extend Spence’s contract this summer at St. Vincents, Timmons may want to hold back on adding an extra bedroom to his house.