Everyone loves a bargain, right? You go shopping, find something you've really wanted and it's on sale. It's a great feeling. The Pittsburgh Steelers could find themselves bargain shopping this offseason, looking for players to replace exiting free agents and potential cuts due to the salary cap.
If things go according to the norm for the Steelers, they will not be players in the free-agent market, even if they do free up significant cap space. That just isn't how they roll.
But that's OK, because for the most part, the core of this team is established. On offense, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has some impressive weapons in running back Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown.
He also has an offensive line that showed tremendous growth in the second half of the season. Allowing only one sack in the final seven games gives cause for excitement. While upgrades could be made, there's no cause for panic on this side of the football.
Defense is a similar story.
Defensive end Cameron Heyward anchors the defensive front. Linebackers Lawrence Timmons, Jarvis Jones and Vince Williams are the foundation of a great group of linebackers.
In the defensive secondary, cornerback Cortez Allen and safety Shamarko Thomas are great building blocks in the defensive backfield.
Looking over the roster, here are the eight players the Steelers could likely be replacing for the 2014 season without a lot of money to work with.
- Emmanuel Sanders, Wide Receiver
- Jonathan Dwyer, Running Back
- Ziggy Hood, Defensive End
- Brett Keisel, Defensive End
- Jason Worilds, Linebacker
- LaMarr Woodley, Linebacker
- Ryan Clark, Safety
- Ike Taylor, Cornerback
Here are some bargain-basement replacements for these guys who will fill the roster, and if things fall right, they could develop into solid players.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.com.
Oakland Raiders wideout Jacoby Ford has seen his role diminish every season since coming into the league in 2010. He has never been a good fit in the Raiders offense, and that means there is almost no chance he is re-signed.
This could be excellent news for the Steelers. Regardless of what has happened so far in his career, Ford can play. Even more significant is that Ford is one of the fastest players in the NFL.
The Steelers' passing offense is predicated on smaller wideouts, making short catches and breaking long runs. Ford is custom built for the bubble screens and quick throws the Steelers love to employ.
The Steelers have one of the most talented running backs in the league in Le’Veon Bell. Anyone behind him on the depth chart is strictly there to spell him on occasion, so there’s no reason to throw money at the position.
Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer is a hardworking back and could easily be retained—but maybe not at league minimum.
If Dwyer does demand more money, the Steelers could look to New York Giants running back Da’Rel Scott. Scott has been grossly underutilized in New York, and he could be the speed back to complement Bell.
Scott would be another signing to add a significant speed factor to the offense as well as on special teams.
One area that the Steelers have struggled with is physical play along the defensive line. With two players potentially leaving via free agency, it is a perfect opportunity for them to add a more physical presence in the middle of the line.
Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Terrence Cody has never been able to gain any traction during his tenure with the Ravens. That means two things. First, he would come cheap which is always good. Second, it means his best football is still ahead of him.
A change of scenery and a change of scheme could be exactly what the 6'4", 340-pound mass of humanity needs.
There's a real chance that the New York Jets' Leger Douzable won't be a bargain this offseason. He was only a reserve last year for the Jets, but the film shows he made plays like a starter. How much of that was due to the talent around him is debatable, but regardless, the potential is there.
If the Steelers opt to let defensive end Ziggy Hood leave, Douzable would be a definite upgrade. Hood might command more money, considering his starting experience. Douzable could slide right in opposite Heyward and make this team better from the first snap.
If there is a cautionary tale about getting too caught up in predraft hype, it might be told about San Diego Chargers linebacker Larry English. He was everything any team could want in a rush outside linebacker. He was an elite combination of size and speed, and he even scored a 34 Wonderlic.
English parlayed all that into the 16th pick in the first round of the 2009 draft. Since then, he has done almost nothing to live up to all that predraft fanfare. This means that he will probably be trying to find work.
The Steelers could find themselves desperate for depth at outside linebacker, and if there is any coach who could bring out the best in English, it's defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
Following along the same lines as with the English signing, the Steelers could find themselves very thin at outside linebacker. If Woodley and Worilds are both gone, it will be an absolute priority to get more than one player to help generate a pass rush.
New Orleans Saints linebacker Parys Haralson has been more of a journeyman player during his seven-year career. For the Steelers, he would come cheaper than either Worilds or Woodley and could be a nice rotational and special teams player.
There's a real possibility that safety Ryan Clark has seen his last action in the NFL for any team. Should he opt for retirement, along with safety Will Allen being a free agent, the potential departures would leave some holes in the defensive secondary.
Philadelphia Eagles safety Kurt Coleman has been a solid, but not spectacular player for the Eagles. He lost his starting job, and he should be looking for a new home to get his career back on track.
Coleman is a strong free safety and has good speed. He might not be a long-term solution, but that's not to say he couldn't be that third safety the Steelers like to use so much.
It might not be the most prudent choice for the Jacksonville Jaguars to let cornerback Will Blackmon leave, but it is a genuine possibility. If that happens, and the Steelers cut cornerback Ike Taylor, he should be a target.
Obviously, with this being a conversation about bargains, Blackmon might not look like he fits. Even as a nickel cornerback in 2013, Blackmon was very good and could have started for many teams. However, compared to the salary Taylor will be due, Blackmon is on clearance.