OverTheCap.com writer Andrew Cohen had an interesting piece for RotoWorld Monday, stressing the value of organic growth on an NFL roster; or at least it's perceived correllation between it and success over a sustained period of time.
Using a team's appearance in its respective conference championship game as a baseline, he reports that 72.3 percent of the 440 players on the 20 conference championship teams since 2009 - which includes the 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers - were acquired either through the draft or in undrafted free agency.
On the flip side, just 7.3 percent (32 out of 440) were acquired by those teams via a "substantial free agent contract," which is defined as a deal of three years or longer, and $15 million or more in total money.
While that probably doesn't concurrently prove both the higher likelihood of success of a team built via the draft as well as the lower probability of success of a team that spends a lot in free agency, it's pretty hard to see it any other way.
The Steelers haven't spent much in free agency in that time, and this year is no exception. According to Cohen, they've spent $25 million to "substantial" free agents - really just safety Mike Mitchell - which is the 15th highest mark in the league.
Denver is the highest with $124.5 million.
Cohen notes what is going largely unreported - Mitchell's deal only contains $5.25 million of guaranteed money - a $4.75 million signing bonus, and a first-year roster bonus of $500,000. That only makes up 20 percent of the total contract, and his roster salary doesn't escalate significantly until Year 3 of the deal. He's scheduled to make $5 million a year from 2016-18.
The Steelers have kept a few free agents, and are less than $2 million from the salary cap as of Monday morning. With two free agents scheduled to visit this week - Arthur Moats today and LaGarrette Blount Friday - there's either a few moves still pending, or they aren't particularly interested in signing both players right now. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Sunday from the league meetings in Orlando they're open to an extension of the contract of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but it isn't an immediate priority.
An extension could shave a few million off their salary cap this season.