I knew it was going to be an uneventful free agency period from the Steelers, but I never figured we would waste our time trying to lure a punter to Pittsburgh .
The Steelers have signed San Francisco punter Andy Lee to an offer sheet yesterday. Lee, who punted collegiately at Heinz Field while at Pitt, is a restricted free agent, so the 49ers have until next Tuesday to match that offer sheet. If they do not, San Fran would receive a 6th round draft pick from the Steelers (the round Lee was taken in the 2003 draft).
It should be mentioned that the 49ers tendered Lee a one-year, $850,000 qualifying offer. So, obviously the Steelers have offered him more (the terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed).
This puzzles me. We have limited cap space, and are interested in spending more than $1 million on a punter? As many of you know, I was a big critic of Chris Gardocki last year. He punted like an old man with little life in his leg. I've seen college punters who fared far better than Gardocki did in '06.
Still, giving up a 6th round draft pick for a punter seems unecessary, despite Lee's solid stats last year. Maybe I'm just bitter that the Steelers are sitting on the sidelines this offseason. It's a hand they're forced to play though, so enough complaining. In fact, I probably should be grateful that the Steelers aren't ponying up absurd mounts of guaranteed cash to non-deserving free agents.
This deal may not even go through. Even though the 49ers have already spent plenty this offseason, they still probably have the extra $500,000 or so it will take to retain the services of Lee. I highly doubt the Steelers offered him much more than that.
Update [2007-3-7 2:32]: According to John Clayton's insider blog ($), the Steelers gave Lee a 6-year $7.1 million offer sheet. That sounds like a lot, but it's probably not too steep for the wealthy 49ers, who seemingly have an bottomless reserve of cap space to play with this offseason.