We initially suggested the Steelers were done with free agent running back Maurice Jones-Drew and were moving onto LeGarrette Blount. But we reserved the notion the team was simply putting on a stall tactic by setting up and making known a scheduled meeting with free agent RB LeGarrette Blount several days in advance (read: delivering a message to MJD).
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News confirms the theory may have legs. He wrote the Steelers are one of four teams interested in MJD, along with the Jets, Patriots and Dolphins. Mehta also wrote, on Monday, earlier reports that Jones-Drew was seeking $3.5 million a season are false; perhaps not at the time, but MJD is singing a different tune. No specifics were given but it's possible (ahem) he saw the light and realized there is no market for a 28-year-old running back at $3.5 million this season - certainly not with ex-Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno still available.
Where does that leave Blount? It's curious why he couldn't meet with teams (or at least the Steelers) in Orlando at the owners' meetings. Our initial reaction to news of Blount's meeting was more of the message-sending variety, and Mehta's report suggests the Steelers consider MJD their top choice, with Blount serving more as a back-up option.
With all three running backs still on the market, and the low-miles, low-age Toby Gerhart looking to be the big winner in terms of running backs free agency (as weird as that sounds), the price for all three of the veteran RBs, MJD, Blount and Moreno, may be all around the same mark.
The question will be how much that is, and for the Steelers, whether they can afford it now.
They'd probably be open to spending a little more after June 1, when the contract of LaMarr Woodley comes off the books, freeing up around $8 million. Until then, they'd have to get creative, or make a roster move of some type.