The Pittsburgh Steelers may have started free agency with a splash, but that feel-good story line couldn’t alter one fundamental off season reality:
- The Steelers were going to lose several players who helped them reach the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
Yesterday that reality translated into Kelvin Beachum signing with the Jaguars and Steve McLendon agreeing to terms with the New York Jets. Today it means that Sean Spence has signed with the Tennessee Titans where he will be reunited with his former Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 16, 2016
NFL Network’s Ian Rapport is reporting that Spence signed a 2.5 million dollar contract and based on the data available on the site Over the Cap, that salary would make Spence the 32nd highest inside linebacker in the league.
So while Sean Spence’s contract qualifies as “starter money” there is also a sort of “Prove It” element to it, given its one year length.
Sans Spence, Steelers Inside Linebacking Depth Still Solid
Sean Spence’s free agent defection was hardly unexpected. The Steelers drafted Sean Spence in 2012 with an eye toward replacing recently retired James Farrior and soon to depart Larry Foote. Spence suffered a gruesome injury in preseason, and the Steelers drafted Vince Williams in in the 2013 NFL Draft and then Ryan Shazier in the 2014 NFL Draft.
- Vince Williams started in 2013, and was supplanted by Ryan Shazier in 2014, but Sean Spence pushed both men for time in 2014.
Sean Spence is clearly the type of player you’d like to have on your team, but paying an backup inside linebacker 2.5 million dollars a year is not a luxury that the salary cap affords the Steelers. For comparison’s sake, Vince Williams will make $675,000 and Ryan Shazier will earn $1,284,292.
In 2016, Vince Williams will play out the final year of his rookie deal and Jordan Zumwalt will come to training camp with a shot to earn a roster spot. The Steelers opted to make Terence Garvin an unrestricted free agent by not offering him a restricted free agent tender, although he could still resign with the Steelers, although he has visited with other NFL teams.
Timmons Stays with Steelers
Finally, Sean Spence’s departure from Pittsburgh without an offer from the Steelers should put to rest any rumors that the Steelers were considering releasing Lawrence Timmons as to save salary cap space.
Given the fact that Mike Tomlin thinks highly of Timmons, and given the large dead money hit the Steelers would take by releasing him, those rumors were hardly credible.
Still, these persisted, but they should end now.