The Pittsburgh Steelers have two major needs at this early point in their offseason. First, they need to get younger, particularly on defense. Second, they need to get under the salary cap. One of the ways they can do that is to combine the two efforts and trade some of their players.
Here's a look at five players that the Steelers could be looking to unload for draft picks and salary relief.
This is tricky. The Steelers value Mendenhall, but he's going to be a free agent next year, and the team has gotten a lot of good carries from Isaac Redman. They also have some intriguing young pieces at running back and might be beyond keeping Mendenhall around.
But Mendenhall is rehabbing a torn ACL. Teams will be scared by that. A lot of his value is dependent upon his recovery. He may not be someone that can be dealt before the draft, but he may draw some interest if he's showing good progress.
Foote has some value left for a team trying to get better at linebacker or a team looking to have a veteran backup. He is probably beyond being a regular starter, and he isn't going to be a long-term fix for anyone either. He is a good leader and locker-room presence.
The Steelers could use the relief getting rid of Foote holds. He's slated for a $3 million salary this coming year, and for his contributions, that's quite high. The Steelers also need room to potentially add another linebacker in the draft.
Long on talent and experience, Kemoeatu is short on results and maturity. He has been the team's regular left guard for most of the time since Alan Faneca departed, but in that time, he has never really been able to replace him on the field.
Kemoeatu could have some value because he can start for most teams, and he isn't going to hurt a team by poor technique or play. He needs to play smarter. Maybe a change of scenery and a fresh coaching perspective could be helpful. It also could clear cap space, as he's set to make over $3.5 million.
Colon has been a massive disappointment the last two years with major injuries. Before the 2011 season, he was brought back on a $29 million, five-year contract that will pay him $4.5 million in 2012. That salary is high, and there are no guarantees about Colon's health.
Colon is a sturdy starter when healthy, so if he's recovered and can show that before the draft, he could draw interest from teams trying to improve along the line. I don't see the Steelers keeping him, as like most everyone on this list, he's too expensive and unpredictable for a team that needs youth, health and stability.
Saunders is a young player with a lot of potential. The Steelers like him a lot, but he's been suspended for the first four games of the 2012 season because of performance-enhancing substances. The Steelers don't usually stand for that and might be wise to sell high.
The tight end position is not a position that the Steelers really need to worry about with Heath Miller and David Johnson. They could pick up another tight end in the late rounds of the draft or on the cheap in free agency.