Exclusive rights free agents are a peculiar NFL breed. They may not be the lowest man on the totem pole, but they’re down there, sort of caught in the NFL CBA’s equivalent of no-man’s land. They don’t have a contract, but they don’t have enough seniority to even talk to another team, let along sign.
They’re kinda like the freshman guys who, even if they can crack the varsity starting lineup, know better than to even look at the hot senior cheerleaders.
The Steelers have a six person 2019 Exclusive Rights Free agent class this year which we profile today.
Capsule Profile of Steelers 2019 Exclusive Rights Free Agent Class
Mike Hilton was the guy that wasn’t good enough for Bill Belichick yet came in during Steelers 2017 training camp and earned the job as a starting nickel back. Mike Hilton authored a strong rookie campaign, and although T.J. Watt deserved rookie of the year honors (Joe Greene Great Performance Award, if you insist), Mike Hilton could have been in the conversation.
- Mike Hilton perhaps plateaued a bit in 2018, as he made fewer splash plays.
- But the Steelers resigned him in mid January, which was a no brainer.
Ditto Matt Feiler. With Chris Hubbard in Cleveland a bit of panic set in when Marcus Gilbert was injured early in the season. However, Matt Feiler stepped in and started 10 of 11 games, and the line didn’t miss a beat. Plus Filer has position flexibility as he can play guard.
- Give that man a contract! (The Steelers did that on January 31st.)
Jake McGee is a wild card. After spending 2017 on the practice squad, word was he was set to make a serious run at Xavier Grimble’s roster spot in 2018. Unfortunately, he got injured in OTAs and was lost for the year. Still, with Jesse James reaching unrestricted free agency, and Grimble a restricted free agent, the Steelers moved smartly in bringing McGee back.
Keion Adams is another interesting choice. Outside of T.J. Watt, the Steelers could upgrade at any of the other outside linebacker positions as Bud Dupree isn’t going to turn heads, and Olasunkanmi Adeniyi remains untested. Kion Adams is just as untested, having spent his rookie year on IR and 2018 on the practice squad, but the Steelers have resigned him, and he’ll get another a shot at St. Vincent’s this summer.
Linebacker Keith Kelsey, spent 2017 on the Steelers practice squad and 2018 on injured reserve. The Louisville linebacker will get another shot at NFL glory this summer at St. Vincents.
Malik Golden spent 2017 and 2018 on injured reserve. He’ll get another shot this summer.
Curtain’s Call on the Steelers and 2019 Exclusive Rights Free Agent Class
The Steelers 2019 free agent class has two guys who’ve already proven themselves to be if not starters, certainly starter capable. It would be a stretch to suggest that Jake McGee and Kion Adams will reach that far, but both could provide valuable depth.
- As for Kelsey and Golden?
Well, Greg Lloyd arrived in Pittsburgh as an unheralded 6th round pick and lost his rookie season to injury and shortened his sophomore campaign. Just Say’in….
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