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Thread: Strange Off-Season For Starks

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    Strange Off-Season For Starks

    Strange Off-Season For Starks
    By TERESA VARLEY
    Assistant Editor

    It’s perfectly understandable that Max Starks would be confused.

    When he walked out the doors of the team’s practice facility after a loss to Jacksonville in an AFC Wild Card game had put an official end to the 2007 season, he had to figure the chance of him coming back to the Steelers was slim. Not only would his contract expire shortly to make him an unrestricted free agent, but he also had lost his starting job at right tackle to a younger player back in training camp. Nothing quite says goodbye in the NFL like that combination.

    “There was a thought in my head after the way everything ended,” said Starks. “I definitely thought in the back of my mind this may be the last time I played with these
    guys. But the goodness of God always makes things possible for you. He knows the true intentions of your heart.

    “I knew because of the relationships I built and established here that I could call these guys anytime and they would be there for me. The guys on the team are close and we talk and support each other after they leave the Steelers.”

    Then came Feb. 20. The Steelers shocked their fans by placing the transition tag on Starks, which meant they could match any offer he might receive from another team, and for this privilege they were willing to guarantee him a salary of $6.985 million for the 2008 season.

    “We wouldn’t transition him if we didn’t think he was starter-capable, and he is,” said
    Coach Mike Tomlin at the time. “He’s proven that over the course of his career.”
    Put all together, it didn’t seem to make a lotof sense. Starks, a guy judged not good enough to start in 2007, was on track to be the team’s second-highest-paid player after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in 2008 if he signed the transition tender and then played under those terms.

    Surely, Starks would get an offer from another team to present to the Steelers, who also might decide $6.985 million was too much money to pay for a guy who could become an unrestricted free agent again next March. But none of those things happened.

    Starks didn’t get any other offers, probably because teams didn’t want to do the Steelers’ negotiating for them, and then the team didn’t withdraw the tender. Starks signed it, and as of today he will play the 2008 season for $6.985 million and then be back on the open market.

    “It would give us salary cap relief (to do a long-term deal), and that has been our goal
    when we put the transition tag on Max,” said Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert. “It still remains our goal, and I know that it’s Max’s goal and (agent) Eugene Parker’s as well. We are going to keep those talks alive because there are benefits for everybody involved. Max gets long-term security, we get security at an im-
    portant position and we would get some cap relief.”

    There has been no bitterness through this entire process. Starks never cleaned out his locker, and the Steelers always said they were interested in keeping him. It was all a bit strange,though.

    “It was a growing experience. It was a learning experience,” said Starks about 2007. “It was learning how to deal with adversity, overcoming adversity. I was looking at all of the positives. I had a year where I stayed healthy; I was able to focus on getting better physically. I got to learn all of the positions and be ready to play. There were a lot of experiences. It helped me grow as a man.”

    During the 2007 season, Starks never quit on himself or the team even though he was no
    longer a starter. He first got onto the field as an extra tight end in short-yardage situations; then he filled in capably when left tackle Marvel Smith had back problems; and the combination of it all had been impressive to those close to the team.

    “There are two ways you can go, up or down,” said Starks. “I chose to assess my situation and rise above it and found other positive things to do. It was a great tool for me. It openednew doors and avenues.”

    The transition tag showed Starks he was wanted by the Steelers. And once Starks got
    some answers to questions he had about the way the transition tag process worked, he signed the tender and joined the Steelers for the start of their offseason program.

    “There was a lot of uncertainty. I didn’t know what all the tag meant, how it was viewed,” said Starks. “It was one of those things that was frustrating because I didn’t know and you hear everybody saying different things and having mixed feelings about it.
    “Then I found out from the NFLPA that the salary was guaranteed. Once I found out it was guaranteed I wanted to sign it. It’s all about having security.”

    It definitely gives Starks short-term security, but he continues to maintain he wants to stay in Pittsburgh. “Every NFL player wants a long-term deal. They want security,” said Starks. “But it’s always up to the organization and how they feel and where they are with regards to the salary cap.

    Sometimes you can’t always do what you want to do. I’m just keeping the faith and waiting to see what happens. I would like to have a longterm deal, but I understand if it’s not possible.”

    One other thing Starks would like is to get back into the starting lineup. Normally, a tackle
    earning $6.985 million for one season would definitely be a starter, but Starks learned his lesson last year — there are no guarantees.

    “It’s always wishful thinking to believe if they pay you this amount they want you to start,” said Starks. “But like with anything else, the bottom line is always going to come down to the greater need of the team.

    “As an offensive lineman you want the best five guys out there, the ones who get along the best, communicate and get the job done together. You can have a great athlete, but if he doesn’t mesh well with what you’re trying to do... You’re looking for that continuity and chemistry. Hopefully, we can find that.”

    And where does Starks see himself fitting into the equation?

    “It’s just one of those things that I’m willing to play anywhere,” said Starks. “I have that versatility. Wherever they need me, I'm there."

  2. #2
    Hall of Famer Flasteel's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Off-Season For Starks

    Starks is just one of the reasons I think our line will be improved this year. Colon really didn't look good there last year and I've maintained since camp that he never should have "won" the job there to begin with. Starks came into camp in the best shape of his career and while he did struggle at LT in the preseason, he looked great the rest of the way. The pictures I've seen of him so far look like he's once again in tremendous shape, so I look for a big rebound year from him.

    Yeah, it's tough to replace an Alan Faneca, but he didn't exactly have a great year last year. I really hope Colon battles with Kemo for that LG spot, but regardless who wins it we should be better off there due to the (hopeful) upgrade at center. Throw in the fact that Marvel's back is reported to be completely healed and I see a much improved unit over last year.

    I also believe that we will make somewhat of a more concerted effort to run the ball, although our offense did increase the ratio last year over 2006. If Arians can help the line out with the play-calling and adding more three-step drops I think that will also go a long way in improving our pass protection.



    "I hate him. Everybody says I'm supposed to be polite when I talk to you all, but I hate him..." "He talks too much, he doesn't make sense, he's fat, he's sloppy, he acts like he's the best thing since sliced bread. He's ugly, he stinks, his mouth stinks, his breath stinks, and basically his soul stinks, too.

    "Not too many people have personalities like that and survive in life. I don't know how he does it."


    -Kris Jenkins on Warren Sapp

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    Re: Strange Off-Season For Starks

    I really think resigning Starks for what appears to be 6.9mil/year was the worst move the Steelers FO has made in years.

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    Re: Strange Off-Season For Starks

    Quote Originally Posted by jhansle1
    I really think resigning Starks for what appears to be 6.9mil/year was the worst move the Steelers FO has made in years.
    I'm not necessarily fond of it either, but barring the alternative... What was the option? Either way, we still didn't address the O-line in the draft whatsoever (and please don't say that Tony Hills addressed it...). At this point, he is the next/best option.... I do, however, like the idea of moving a few of the guys around (as I discussed to death before that many remember...). The key to that will be to do it EARLY in camp and decide on a mix right off the bat.... They (whoever the line is) need time to "gel" throughout the tail-end of camp/pre-season. Otherwise, they are "getting acquainted" during the first few weeks, and that is just bad....

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    Re: Strange Off-Season For Starks

    Quote Originally Posted by Flasteel
    Starks is just one of the reasons I think our line will be improved this year. Colon really didn't look good there last year and I've maintained since camp that he never should have "won" the job there to begin with. Starks came into camp in the best shape of his career and while he did struggle at LT in the preseason, he looked great the rest of the way. The pictures I've seen of him so far look like he's once again in tremendous shape, so I look for a big rebound year from him.

    Yeah, it's tough to replace an Alan Faneca, but he didn't exactly have a great year last year. I really hope Colon battles with Kemo for that LG spot, but regardless who wins it we should be better off there due to the (hopeful) upgrade at center. Throw in the fact that Marvel's back is reported to be completely healed and I see a much improved unit over last year.

    I also believe that we will make somewhat of a more concerted effort to run the ball, although our offense did increase the ratio last year over 2006. If Arians can help the line out with the play-calling and adding more three-step drops I think that will also go a long way in improving our pass protection.
    Fla, this is one issue that I DO remember us agreeing on last year.... Colon, Starks, Kemo.... we have to find the right mix. Put the "best 5 on the field". ... As for Faneca, well, he played poorly last season IMO... His pro-bowl nomination was due to past performance, not current year. ... For that reason, I don't think it will be as big of a loss at that position. I guess time will tell... Now, to bring up a subject from last night, I do not have the confidence in Arians to adapt the play-calling so as to get it done.... I am not being a "doom-and-gloomer", but I just do not have any confidence in him whatsoever... If I am wrong, I will gladly eat my words.

    Bottom line is that, IMO, the O-line will be a key "watchpoint" for the success of this offense.

  6. #6
    Hall of Famer Flasteel's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Off-Season For Starks

    Quote Originally Posted by jhansle1
    I really think resigning Starks for what appears to be 6.9mil/year was the worst move the Steelers FO has made in years.
    The plan on both sides is to still get him to sign for a long-term contract, which is mentioned in the article. If he were to play at $6.9M next year, then I'd be scratching my head a little, but by no means would it even be close to the worst move they've made in years. Even if a long-term deal is reached, you have to figure that Starks' annual salary this upcoming year would be in the neighborhood of $3.5M plus any pro-rated portion of his signing bonus (let's give him $10M over 5 years) to put him around a cap hit of $5.5M.

    Of course this is a complete guess, but if that number is close, then it's only a difference of $1.4M next year. What could that amount of money do for us? What could it have allowed us to do in free agency? The answer to both of those questions is nothing.

    Max Starks is easily better than any tackle we could have drafted or that was available to us in free agency. There wasn't another player out there that we were targeting (with maybe the exception of Rex Hadnot) where that money could have made any difference.

    Starks is a good tackle who got screwed by Larry Zierlein last year and I am willing to bet he has a great year. If that turns out to be the case, then those contract numbers all of the sudden become one hell of a bargain.



    "I hate him. Everybody says I'm supposed to be polite when I talk to you all, but I hate him..." "He talks too much, he doesn't make sense, he's fat, he's sloppy, he acts like he's the best thing since sliced bread. He's ugly, he stinks, his mouth stinks, his breath stinks, and basically his soul stinks, too.

    "Not too many people have personalities like that and survive in life. I don't know how he does it."


    -Kris Jenkins on Warren Sapp

  7. #7
    BIG FAN
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    Re: Strange Off-Season For Starks

    At present, I think too much money for too little.
    Our line to be polite was mediocre at best last year, kind of like a line that you would think a couple of thier best guys were injured, I really dont know how many of Bens sacks were on him, but the rest was on our line. I have to agree wholehartedly with NKy, I dont think we adressed the issue enough. Not last year, not this year, and if the coaching staff doesn't light some fires under some asses this season we will be adressing this same **** for the next two years.

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    Hall of Famer Flasteel's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Off-Season For Starks

    Quote Originally Posted by NKySteeler
    Quote Originally Posted by Flasteel
    Starks is just one of the reasons I think our line will be improved this year. Colon really didn't look good there last year and I've maintained since camp that he never should have "won" the job there to begin with. Starks came into camp in the best shape of his career and while he did struggle at LT in the preseason, he looked great the rest of the way. The pictures I've seen of him so far look like he's once again in tremendous shape, so I look for a big rebound year from him.

    Yeah, it's tough to replace an Alan Faneca, but he didn't exactly have a great year last year. I really hope Colon battles with Kemo for that LG spot, but regardless who wins it we should be better off there due to the (hopeful) upgrade at center. Throw in the fact that Marvel's back is reported to be completely healed and I see a much improved unit over last year.

    I also believe that we will make somewhat of a more concerted effort to run the ball, although our offense did increase the ratio last year over 2006. If Arians can help the line out with the play-calling and adding more three-step drops I think that will also go a long way in improving our pass protection.
    Fla, this is one issue that I DO remember us agreeing on last year.... Colon, Starks, Kemo.... we have to find the right mix. Put the "best 5 on the field". ... As for Faneca, well, he played poorly last season IMO... His pro-bowl nomination was due to past performance, not current year. ... For that reason, I don't think it will be as big of a loss at that position. I guess time will tell... Now, to bring up a subject from last night, I do not have the confidence in Arians to adapt the play-calling so as to get it done.... I am not being a "doom-and-gloomer", but I just do not have any confidence in him whatsoever... If I am wrong, I will gladly eat my words.

    Bottom line is that, IMO, the O-line will be a key "watchpoint" for the success of this offense.
    I don't have any faith in Arians either and I should have stated that Starks got screwed over by both he and Zierlein. Time will tell, but from a personnel standpoint I think we'll be better even with the loss of Faneca.

    I also agree that we didn't address either line the way we should have this offseason, but when it comes to the offensive side of the ball there wasn't a whole lot that we could have done differently given the way the draft unfolded and the slim-pickin's in free agency. On the defensive side, it may have been a mistake to pass on Dre Moore in the third (again, time will tell), but you can't fault the front office for passing up on Kentwan Balmer when Mendenhall was on the board. Aside from that, there was only a couple of big-money guys available via trade (such as Shaun Rodgers) who we could have plugged in at RDE.



    "I hate him. Everybody says I'm supposed to be polite when I talk to you all, but I hate him..." "He talks too much, he doesn't make sense, he's fat, he's sloppy, he acts like he's the best thing since sliced bread. He's ugly, he stinks, his mouth stinks, his breath stinks, and basically his soul stinks, too.

    "Not too many people have personalities like that and survive in life. I don't know how he does it."


    -Kris Jenkins on Warren Sapp

  9. #9
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    Re: Strange Off-Season For Starks

    Quote Originally Posted by Flasteel
    I don't have any faith in Arians either and I should have stated that Starks got screwed over by both he and Zierlein. Time will tell, but from a personnel standpoint I think we'll be better even with the loss of Faneca.

    I also agree that we didn't address either line the way we should have this offseason, but when it comes to the offensive side of the ball there wasn't a whole lot that we could have done differently given the way the draft unfolded and the slim-pickin's in free agency. On the defensive side, it may have been a mistake to pass on Dre Moore in the third (again, time will tell), but you can't fault the front office for passing up on Kentwan Balmer when Mendenhall was on the board. Aside from that, there was only a couple of big-money guys available via trade (such as Shaun Rodgers) who we could have plugged in at RDE.
    I don't fault the picks... That's the way it panned out. You couldn't pass on what was there. ... That said, we haven't improved on the line, and that is my concern. It will be interesting.

  10. #10
    BigBen2112
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    Re: Strange Off-Season For Starks

    Quote Originally Posted by Flasteel
    Quote Originally Posted by jhansle1
    I really think resigning Starks for what appears to be 6.9mil/year was the worst move the Steelers FO has made in years.
    The plan on both sides is to still get him to sign for a long-term contract, which is mentioned in the article. If he were to play at $6.9M next year, then I'd be scratching my head a little, but by no means would it even be close to the worst move they've made in years. Even if a long-term deal is reached, you have to figure that Starks' annual salary this upcoming year would be in the neighborhood of $3.5M plus any pro-rated portion of his signing bonus (let's give him $10M over 5 years) to put him around a cap hit of $5.5M.

    Of course this is a complete guess, but if that number is close, then it's only a difference of $1.4M next year. What could that amount of money do for us? What could it have allowed us to do in free agency? The answer to both of those questions is nothing.

    Max Starks is easily better than any tackle we could have drafted or that was available to us in free agency. There wasn't another player out there that we were targeting (with maybe the exception of Rex Hadnot) where that money could have made any difference.

    Starks is a good tackle who got screwed by Larry Zierlein last year and I am willing to bet he has a great year. If that turns out to be the case, then those contract numbers all of the sudden become one hell of a bargain.
    Max Starks is NOT better than anyone we could have gone out and gotten. Saying that really is amazing!

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