The Pittsburgh Steelers might not be entering 2016 with the type of high profile free agent class that Steelers Nation was forced to endure in the 1990’s (think Neil O’Donnell, Yancey Thigpen, Chad Brown etc….), but almost without a doubt, the Steelers have some complicated choices in front of them.
Steelers restricted free agent Terence Garvin illustrates just how complicated those choices can get.
Capsule Profile of Terence Garvin’s Career with the Steelers
While its true that OTA’s, minicamp’s and other spring workouts are generally much to do about nothing, Terence Garvin proves that events with real news value really do occur during spring practices.
Terence Garvin’s phone didn’t ring during the 2013 NFL Draft. He didn’t even get a call from then linebacker’s Keith Butler offering him an undrafted rookie free agent contract the day after the draft. But the Steelers did offer him an invitation to rookie mini-camp.
He impressed enough to earn a futures contract that got him a ticket to Latrobe. Garvin did well in Latrobe, and although he did not make the final list of cuts, the Steelers did sign him to their practice squad. But Garvin’s stint on the practice squad was short lived.
Then Matt Spaeth suffered a lisfranc injury during training camp, the Steelers put Spaeth on IR and activated Garvin. Garvin dressed for 15 games in 2013, but for the first half of the year he toiled in obscurity on special teams. However, during the later half of the season, attentive fans noted that number 57 would line up with the defense on third downs, replacing Vince Williams.
Then came the signature moment of Terence Garvin’s Steelers career (available as of 2/26/16):
The Steelers had been all but eliminated from the playoffs, the Cincinnati Bengals still had a shot at securing a bye, but Terence Garvin’s hit on Kevin Huber revealed just how badly the Bengals were unprepared for prime time.
Garvin also got injured in that game, but he seemed to have a bright future ahead of him. Mike Tomlin called him “a big safety” and he seemed to be ahead of Williams when it came to pass coverage. The Steelers then of course went and drafted Ryan Shazier in 1st round of the 2014 NFL Draft and Sean Spence made a full recovery.
Terence Garvin fell off the radar screen of most Steelers fans, but has remained a solid contributor on special teams.
The Case for Steelers Keeping Terence Garvin
With Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Sean Spence, and Vince Williams the depth of the Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacking corps has been the envy of the NFL for the past two seasons. Garvin has barely been a footnote on that depth chart.
That might make him seem like a luxury, but Sean Spence is due to become a free agent this year and will probably depart for greener pastures and Vince Williams will likely follow the next year.
Those two facts alone, combined with his steady special teams play, make the case for bringing Terence Garvin back to Pittsburgh.
The Case Against Steelers Keeping Terence Garvin
The case against bringing Terence Garvin back to Pittsburgh is a pretty weak one, but it would say that if Garvin dressed to play special teams but couldn’t press Spence or Williams for playing time while Ryan Shaizer was nursing injuries, should the Steelers really settle for 5th best?
Curtain’s Call on Steelers and Terence Garvin
At the end of the day, the question isn’t really whether the Steelers want Terence Garvin back or not it is whether they offer Garvin a restricted free agent offer. Last year the Steelers offered restricted free agent tenders to Will Johnson, Antwon Blake and Robert Golden even though Golden was seen as little more than a special teams player.
- Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell has estimated that the Steelers could not tender Garvin and save about $900,000.
There is a predicent for that. The Steelers didn’t tender Stevenson Sylvester in 2013 but still brought Sylvester back. But franchise practice has been to tender restricted free agents, and given future uncertainty at the position, the Steelers will likely do that with Garvin.