Discounting their 2014 draft picks and prospective undrafted players, the Pittsburgh Steelers have just 27 players signed past this season.
And six were selected during last year's NFL Draft.
PITTSBURGH -- Inside linebacker Vince Williams, a sixth-round selection, was among those rookies who contributed heavily last season with 11 starts in 15 games. He is signed through 2016, along with seven-year NFL veteran and five-year starting inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons.
Arthur Moats was signed in free agency, and he can play inside and outside linebacker. However, the Steelers brought in the four-year NFL veteran to provide depth at the very least and possibly start next to Timmons. Moats signed just a one-year contract March 24 with the Steelers for $795,000 that included a $65,000 signing bonus, so his base salary this season is $730,000.
Timmons, among the Steelers' best and most versatile defensive players the past four seasons, received a huge payday prior to the 2011 season when he signed a six-year, $50 million contract. The deal included an $11 million signing bonus initially, along with a $7.125 million signing bonus last year. Timmons will make $6.75 million this year, $7.5 million in 2015 and $8.75 million during the final year of his contract. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2017.
Timmons cap hit this year is second to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It is more than $11.8 million this year and in 2016 and more than $12.5 million next season. The Steelers restructured Timmons original agreement last year to provide around $5 million in cap space, which is where the second signing bonus came into play last year. There was some talk that Timmons would be restricted again this year, but that has not yet happened.
Williams signed a four-year rookie contract for $2,238,680. The deal included a $78,680 signing bonus. His base salary is $495,000 this year, $585,000 in 2015 and $675,000 during the final year of the agreement. Williams will be an unrestricted free agent in 2017, but if he continues to progress and play a key role in the Steelers defense they will re-sign him long before then.
The other three inside linebackers on the Steelers roster are Terence Garvin, Sean Spence and Kion Wilson. Garvin and Wilson are only signed for this season, while Spence -- a third-round draft choice in 2012 -- has two years remaining on his rookie contract. He originally signed a four-year, $2.705 million deal, which included a $545,380 signing bonus, but has spent two seasons on injured reserve. He is set to make $590,000 this year and $680,000 in 2015.
Spence basically is a wild card among the Steelers linebacking corps. If his surgically repaired left knee does not hamper his development any more, Spence could complete for playing time. A broken finger kept him from making a comeback at midseason in 2013, but Spence is believed to be healthy now.
Wilson, a journeyman, and undrafted free agent Garvin are set to make $495,000 this year. Wilson has played 15 NFL games during three seasons, including seven for the Steelers last year with two starts. Garvin played in 15 games for the Steelers last season with one start. They can provide depth this year, but their future with the club will be determined by their performance.