Value. It's the name of the game in today's NFL. Always has been though with the Rooneys and the Steelers' front office. It's not often that us fans get to share in much of the excitement that surrounds NFL Free Agency, and this year is generally no different. We just don't go out and hand guys like Donte Stallworth $30+ million dollars. Never have. Never will.
But what we can look forward to is adding pieces like Minnesota RB/PR Mewelde Moore, the Vikings 4th-round draft choice in 2004. John Clayton of ESPN, just reported that the Steelers have agreed to terms on a 3-year $4.95 million dollar deal with Moore, who couldn't find much playing time behind super-sensation Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor in Minnesota's crowded backfield.
Moore provides an instant-upgrade in the speed deparment
as a 3rd-down back and return specialist
In addition to shouldering a piece of the Steelers' rushing duties, expect Moore to slip into the punt returner role in 2008 for Pittsburgh. I wouldn't be surprised to see him return kicks as well. And, fingers crossed here, if Fast Willie Parker wears down or is inflicted with another unfortunate injury like the one he suffered against the Rams late last year, Moore can be trusted to carry the rock as well. In 2005, Moore started 8 games, accumulating 662 yards on 155 carries. His 4.4 yards per carry that year were actually .5 yards below his career average of 4.9. Moore also has solid hands and the ability to make the first guy miss after the catch. His career high is 47 catches in 2006, but he caught 27 and 37 balls in 2004 and 2005 respectively, before falling off to just 6 catches in '07. His 9.4 yards per catch should excited Steelers fans eager to see the screen pass utilized a bit more. And finally, Moore isn't a liability turnover-wise. In 380 career touches (rushes + receptions), he has only put the ball on the carpet twice, losing only one. Not bad, not bad at all.
So, be proud Steelers Nation. I have a feeling that we're going to look back at this signing very favorably in a couple year's time. For just a few bucks, at least compared to what other players are receiving this year, we have obtained a reliable back-up who can bolster our special teams play, spell Parker in the event of an emergency, catch the ball out of the backfield, and not turn the ball over. Disappointed we didn't get a bigger 'name'? Well, consider this. The ever-trendy Michael Turner, San Diego's former back-up RB who admittedly was impressive when called upon, just inked a 6-year deal worth more than $34.5 million including $15 million guaranteed. Is he worth $30 million more than Moore?? Didn't think so.
I suspect just about everybody will be pleased with this move except Najeh Davenport and Willie Reed. Depending on what transpires with Nate Washington and what we do with Cedrick Wilson, there probably just isn't room for Reed on this squad now that we have Moore for return duties. As for Najeh? Well, depends how much faith we have in Gary Russel to be our third option. If we think he can do the job if called upon, I'd suspect Davenport will be employed elsewhere, as it just doesn't make much sense to carry three RBs at over $1 million per year (FWP + Moore + Davenport). We'll see though. It's entirely plausible we keep Davenport as insurance, have Moore field both punts and kickoffs, and then have the two of them split whatever carries FWP doesn't get in '08 before reassesing in '09.
Good job Steelers! Welcome to the family Mewelde. This is why I'll continue espouting my faith in the decisions and direction of this proud franchise. Let the celebration continue.