First of all, I'll mention that I've been away from my computer for much of the day. I received news of the Steelers free agent signings moments after they were made public, but I have not had time yet to read all of your reactions to the Pittsburgh Steelers free agent acquisitions Monday. Here are my initial thoughts to the signings.
To begin - who saw either of these moves coming?? In Ryan Clark's case, reports out of Miami only hours earlier made it sound like Clark was a shoe-in to land in South Florida. Clark said he thought it was a great fit, and considering what we heard from Clark himself last week in regards to the negotiation process with the Steelers, it sure didn't seem likely that Clark would play another down in the Black 'N Gold.
Well, something must have changed, as the Steelers and Clark ultimately agreed on a 4 year, $17 million dollar contract that will pay Clark $5 million in 2010. The deal makes sense in a lot of ways. Yes, Clark will probably earn a bit more than he's 'worth' in 2010, but the team will not have to worry about finding a free safety that's capable of playing for a championship caliber team next year. Then after 2010, the organization is much less committed financially to the remainder of the deal. For the short term though, the team retains an important piece of what could again be a top flight defense pending the health of stalwarts like Polamalu, Woodley, Harrison and Smith.
As for Randle El....what can you say? Welcome back to the 'Burgh baby! I'm not sure of the financials, but I believe that Randle-El and the organization agreed to a 3-year deal. The former return man and wide receiver for the Steelers will turn 31 this summer prior to the start of the 2010 season. That means his best days may be behind him, but it's not like he's a 34 year old shell of himself. I see Randle El as plenty capable of catching 40-50 balls in the slot in Bruce Arians' offense. You also never know about Hines Ward's ability to stay healthy and effective for a full season. I personally have faith that he'll play at a high level again 2010, but it still might make sense to let both him and Randle El compliment/spell each other throughout the year in hopes of keeping both fresh and healthy for meaningful games come January.
Finally, I will say that I'm usually not one to subscribe too heavily to things like chemistry, momentum and other intangibles, but I will say that I wholeheartedly believe that Randle El will bring some veteran pizazz and swagger to a team that seemed to lack something leadership wise last year. The key though is for Randle El to accept whatever niche makes most sense for him next year. We know that Randle El is, how shall we say it...supremely self-confident. And rightfully so. The dude was a baller quarterback in the Big 10, then made a seamless transition to wide receiver at the NFL level. He's a remarkable athlete and there's not much he can't do on a football field. He'll just have to accept the fact that he won't be asked to do all the things he may feel he's capable of doing. I think he will though with Hines Ward playing alongside him once more.
More on these moves and those made by other teams thus far in the 2010 version of NFL Free Agency soon enough. For now, I'll say I'm excited. With Clark, I'm excited that the team won't have to try a new, unproven solution in 2010 and 2011 - a two-year window that I've stated were peak years for the Steelers to contend for yet another Super Bowl(s). With Randle El, the move may mean less in terms of filling an immediate need. But I think bringing him back has the potential to reap big dividends in ways that go beyond his mere statistical contributions.