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2009 Offseason Will Be Critical For The Steelers

So I was bored this morning and was taking a look at the contract status the current roster and one thing kept jumping out at me: there are an awful lot of players who will be free agents. This past off season was a relatively easy one for the front office considering there weren't many free agents and outside of the Max Starks fiasco, there weren't many difficult decisions. February 2009 would be a completely different story though, here's a quick list of the free agents to be:

Player Position Player Position
Marvel Smith OT Charlie Batch QB
Max Starks OT Anthony Smith FS
Willie Colon OT Anthony Madison DB
Trai Essex OT Grant Mason DB
Chris Kemoeatu OG Bryant McFadden CB
Nate Washington WR James Farrior LB
Willie Reid WR Arnold Harrison LB
Najeh Davenport RB Andre Frazier LB
Carey Davis FB

Ryan McBean


Wow, in case anyone is counting that list of players has combined to start 295 games and play in over 500 games for the Steelers. Now to be honest some of these guys will be restricted free agents and several of these names are possible cut victims during camp. Willie Colon, Willie Reid, Anthony Smith, Anthony Madison, Grant Mason, Arnold Harrison and Ryan McBean will all be restricted free agents and Carey Davis might be as well but I'm not sure because he's actually been in the league since 2004.

Obviously the biggest losses will come on the offensive line. While one or two of these guys may get new deals in Pittsburgh, they simply can't all be retained. If I'm taking guesses, the most likely would seem to be Chris Kemoeatu, who might get a new deal before the season even starts. After Chris K, I'd have to think either Starks or Marvel, but that'll likely depend on who the front office/coaching staff sees as the future at left tackle. Essex is just a guy so I'd imagine with Hills being added to the mix, this is probably his final season in the Burgh.

Washington, Reid, Davenport, and Batch are probably playing their final season here, if they make it through the season. Reid and Davenport seem to be on the chopping block already. Washington's future took a shot with the drafting of Limas Sweed. Carey Davis will probably get a new deal even if he isn't a RFA, if for no other reason than he'll likely be very cheap.

For the defensive guys, the two big questions are obvious: what to do with McFadden and Farrior? Is Farrior worth a new deal at 33 years old and will he be willing to give a 'hometown discount?' Can McFadden stay healthy long enough to finally prove he's the playmaker that some of us think he is? I honestly don't know the answers to these questions and even though I'd really like to see both of these guys back in 2009 and beyond, it'll likely depend on whether they want to be here or not.

So who do you see as they guys we absolutely have to keep? Is this something we should be concerned about or does this look like a purge of mostly marginal players?