Ed: Might Steelers Lose NT McLendon?

THURSDAY, 18 APRIL 2013 WRITTEN BY ED BOUCHETTE

Good morning,

The biggest surprise when the Steelers issued their restricted free agent tenders in March wasn’t the $1.3 million salary they pledged to Emmanuel Sanders, it was the same amount they gave Steve McLendon.

Now it may show they made yet another mistake.

McLendon visited the Green Bay Packers on Wednesday, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.

The deadline for signing an RFA is Friday, and should the Packers sign him the Steelers defense will have taken another big hit to its front.

There is no compensation involved if the Packers sign McLendon to an offer sheet. The Steelers merely have the chance to match within five days.

McLendon is projected as the Steelers starting nose tackle and some believe he outplayed Casey Hampton last season in a limited role. He’s one of those gems the Steelers dug out of the undrafted pile, spending his first few years bouncing around between their practice squad and the 53-man. Now that he’s polished and ready to go, the Steelers allowed him to be susceptible to getting plucked off their team.

They would have had to tender him a $2 million contract in order to really protect him because that would have put a second-round draft choice on him as compensation. Since he wasn’t drafted, the lower tender yields no compensation, unlike the Sanders situation.

The Steelers gambled on that lower tender even though Casey Hampton was a free agent and Alameda Ta’amu faced jail time. Perhaps they are confident that Ta’amu can replace Hampton at nose tackle if they lose McLendon, or that they could even re-sign Hampton. He played for a reduced salary of $1 million last year, which means they could actually save money and cap space by bringing him back and letting McLendon go.

The Packers run a 3-4 defense and are packed with former Steelers players/coaches on their staff: Dom Capers is defensive coordinator, Kevin Greene their linebackers coach and Darren Perry the secondary coach.

Why they would want McLendon, though, when they have 26-year-old B.J. Raji? Maybe because Raji, whil he has two years left on his contract, 2014 is voidable and he can leave as a free agent after this season.

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