Draft a nose, sign one in free agency or stand pat with Steve McLendon?
Some thoughts to ponder over the weekend before the start of free agency on Tuesday:
The Steelers might have a little money to spend on free agents. The key word there is little. They could have as much as $7 million if the release cornerback Ike Taylor, less if they ask him to take a pay cut. They might have more if they come to terms on a long-term deal with Jason Worilds.
With that money, the Steelers would like to re-sign receiver Jerricho Cotchery and they are thin at defensive end and corner, if they release Taylor. They also need to get a reserve offensive lineman or two under contract and perhaps a running back. One or two of those needs could be filled through the draft, but not all of them.
Many fans seem to be enthralled with the idea of signing a nose tackle in free agency. Some of the questions I get asked the most during recent chats is whether the Steelers would dip into free agency for a nose.
The idea behind such a move would mean Steve McLendon, the starter at nose last season, would move to defensive end, where the Steelers are currently thin.
The two names most often floated by fans are Miamiís Paul Soliai and Baltimore Terrence Cody. Of the two, Soliai is the better player, but he can be crossed off the wish list because his agent told the Florida Sun-Sentinel that heís looking for an upgrade over the two-year $12 million dollar contract he just completed with the Dolphins.
The Steelers, even after they decide to restructure or terminate Ike Taylor and/or LaMarr Woodley, would not be in position to pay a nose tackle, say, $7 million per season on a multi-year deal. And if they did it would have to be a deal with a low base salary with high cap hits in future years. That seems unlikely. Plus, heís 30 years old.
Cody is a more realistic option, but would he really be an upgrade over McLendon? At 6 feet and 360 pounds, Cody is the more typical 3-4 nose tackle. He is bigger than McLendon, who was listed last season at 285 pounds. McLendon actually played at a heavier weight but nothing approaching 360 pounds.
Cody is a former second round pick out of Alabama. He was a starter in 2011 but has been relegated to backup duty behind Haloti Ngata the past two seasons. He would be relatively cheap on the free agent market, but the Steelers would be taking a chance on someone elseís backup, a player who has not been a starter in the league for two years. Plus, he missed four games last season with an injury.
The Steelers would have to be convinced that Cody was stuck behind an All-Pro and not an underachiever who was only able to get on the field for 240 snaps last season. Considering the amount of time he played last season that would be a hard one to figure out for the pro scouts.
Another option could be drafting and developing a nose tackle. It might not be Louis Nix in the first round, but drafting a player might make the most sense considering the cap situation the Steelers are currently in. Itís harder finding a player ready to step in and play after round 1, but it could be an option.
Or they could simply stand pat and go with McLendon, who was signed to a contract last year that pays him $2.45 million next season, the highest for any defensive linemen on the roster. McLendon started for the first time and Steelers could hope he improves by next season after learning the ropes.