Taken at face value, the career prospects of an undrafted rookie free agent who signs with the defending Super Bowl Champions look pretty bleak. Yet that’s exactly where Ramon Foster found himself in April of 2009, when the Steelers signed Foster as part of their 2009 undrafted rookie free agent class, just months after victory in Super Bowl XLIII.
Yet, 7 years later, Ramon Foste can count himself is one of the Pittsburgh Steelers hottest free agent commodities.
Capsule Profile of Ramon Foster’s Career with the Steelers
Yet Foster showed enough on the fields of St. Vincents to get a shot in preseason, where he played well enough to make the final 53 man roster. Injuries to Chris Kemoeatu opened the door for Foster to crack the starting lineup, and neither Foster nor the Steelers have looked back.
Foster started 8 games in 2010, including Super Bowl XLV. He started 14 games in 2011, 16 games in 2012, 15 games in 2013, 14 games in 2014, and 16 games in 2015.
The Case for Steelers Keeping Ramon Foster
While Ramon Foster will crack the big 3-0 before opening in 2019, he’s an offensive guard with 5 straight seasons of starting experience under his belt, and no significant injuries to speak of. Not bad for an undrafted rookie free agent. Contrast that with the experience of Kendall Simmons, 2002’s first round pick whose career was essentially over thanks to injuries by the time he turned 30.
- Ramon Foster has been a pillar of stability during a period of turmoil for the Steelers offensive line.
Ramon Foster might not be a road grading guard in the mold of David DeCastro or Alan Faneca, but his first start vs. the Ravens in 2009 marked the first game that the Steelers gave up no sacks, and his second start vs. Green Bay marked Ben Roethlisberger’s first 500 yard game. Who wouldn’t want a player like that?
The Case Against Steelers Keeping Ramon Foster
Back in the1980’s, the Washington Redskins had a middle linebacker named Neal Olkewicz. Olkewicz was one of those players who wasn’t quite big enough or fast enough, but he was good enough. Nonetheless, Joe Gibbs and Bobby Bethard continually tried to replace him, and Olkewicz continually beat back the Young Turks until retiring after a decade at age 32.
- That little ditty highlights the difference of today’s NFL with the pre-free agency NFL.
The Redskins repeated attempts to replace Olkewicz were no-risk propositions because they neither had to worry about losing his services via free agency nor tying up salary cap money.
The Steelers are not so lucky with Ramon Foster. To that end, Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell offers some interesting insights:
…when I asked two different coaches over the last two seasons whether [Kelvin} Beachum is a guy they’ll always be looking to replace, the exact answer each time was “No, but Ramon Foster is.”
The Steelers, word has it, want more mobility at left guard than Foster can give him, and will apparently consider their options.
Curtain’s Call on Steelers and Ramon Foster
There are no easy choices here. The Steelers leaked their ideal scenario and it is one that does not include Ramon Foster coming back. That scenario has Kelvin Beachum signing and extension and moving to guard while Alejandro Villanueva takes over at tackle with Mike Adams serving as a backup.
OK. Beachum is about to become a free agent and offensive takcles make more money than guards do.
So Beachum’s supposed to say he’ll never play guard. But those kind of statements indicate at least a willingness to test the market. If the Steelers give priority to Kelvin Beachum that means there’s no way to sign him before he becomes a free agent, and also likely means that Foster will be allowed to test the market.
- While the Steelers salary cap situation is OK, there is still no shortage of teams with money to throw at experienced offensive lineman.
Offensive line depth is nothing to trifle with. The safe move would be to sign Beachum and allow Foster to test the market but that option is not likely open to the Steelers. Will the Steelers commit to signing Foster before he hits the market? Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin don’t make personnel decisions out of fear.
It would make another great “Steelers undrafted rookie free agent does good” story for Ramon Foster to ink and extension which give him a shot at ending his career in Pittsburgh. And that very well may happen. But the stars don’t quite seem to be lining up that way.