Heading into the 2013 offseason the Steelers were potentially looking at having their top three wide receivers all hit free agency. That problem was cured when they extended Antonio Browns contract for five more years. They will still have to deal with Mike Wallace (who will be an unrestricted free agent) and Emmanuel Sanders (a restricted free agent). Wallace is thought to be all, but gone unless he comes to terms on a long-term deal during training camp. Sanders on the other hand will likely be given a long-term contract depending on his health and production during the 2012 season.
Outside of wide receiver the Steelers have many more players to make tough decisions on. Here is a look at what I believe will happen with the following 2013 free agents:
2013 Unrestricted free agents
S Will Allen – Allen is a quality back-up and good special teams player, but the Steelers will be looking for someone who can do those same things that costs less than $2 million per year. Allen’s high price tag (for a back-up) may cost him a roster spot this year; especially if Myron Rolle plays well during camp.
LB Larry Foote – Foote is likely gone after the 2012 season as his price tag is a bit high for a team who will again have cap issues in 2013. Foote may stick around if he is willing to take the veteran minimum, but it is unlikely. The Steelers will be looking to go with youth at middle linebacker in 2013 with Stevenson Sylvester or Sean Spence.
G Ramon Foster – Foster is a nice player to have as a back-up, but he may be looking for a chance to start and I’m not sure he will get it in Pittsburgh. He has Colon and DeCastro in his way and he may look for a better chance and more money elsewhere.
NT Casey Hampton – The big snack is likely entering his final year in Pittsburgh. Alameda Ta’amu and Steve McLendon will be looking to take over as the nose tackles of the future.
FB David Johnson – Johnson will be in a battle during training camp with Will Johnson if he wins the full back job and plays well he will likely get a deal in the offseason to stick around.
G/C Doug Legursky – Legursky will be retained if he agrees to a fair contract. The Steelers love players with vetrsatility and Legursky is a great back-up at center as well as both guard spots.
CB Keenan Lewis – Lewis is looking to make a name for himself in his fourth year in the league. If he starts in 2012 and plays well the Steelers will try to retain him. If he plays well as a back-up they will also try and keep him around, but if he struggles again the Steelers may finally be willing to give up on him.
RB Rashard Mendenhall – Mendenhall will have the second half of the 2012 season to show he is healthy. His ACL injury may be a blessing in disguise for the Steelers as it may make him affordable enough to retain long-term.
S Ryan Mundy – Mundy, like Allen, will be working to show he is still a capable back-up. Depending on who the Steelers draft next year Mundy should still be in the mix at safety.
LS Greg Warren – Warren will still get a qualifying offer to stick around like usual and should be back in 2013.
2013 Restricted Free Agents
RB Jonathan Dwyer – Dwyer is not a lock to make the 2012 squad, but I think he will. If he plays to his abilities he should still be around in 2013
P Jeremy Kapinos – Kapinos is in a battle to keep his job in 2012 and the Steelers may look for a cheaper option in the 2013 offseason even if he remains the punter in 2012.
NT Steve McLendon – McLendon played well in 2011. If he does it again in 2012 the Steelers will be working on a long-term deal with the nose tackle.
RB Issac Redman – with the injury to Mendenhall, Redman, has a chance to prove himself worthy of being a starting running back in the NFL. The Steelers will be looking to retain Redman in 2013.
WR Emmanuel Sanders – Sanders needs to stay healthy in 2012. If he can do that he may have a year similar to Antonio Brown’s 2011. Sanders has all the talent he just hasn’t had much luck with injuries. If he produces in 2012 he will be a candidate for a long-term deal much like Brown this offseason.
LB Stevenson Sylvester – Sylve - be in the mix to start at inside linebacker and should see more playing time in 2013. If he plays well, which I think he will, he will be a candidate to take over for Larry Foote in 2013.