ESPN NFL Nation Steelers writer Scott Brown hinted at the Steelers' willingness to sign center Maurkice Pouncey to an extension this summer - somewhat interesting, given Pouncey is coming off a torn ACL, one of numerous injuries he's suffered since joining the team in 2010.
It's not a terrible idea, either.
The Browns applied the transition tag to their own high-end center, Alex Mack, and he's reportedly being wooed by the Jacksonville Jaguars to the tune of $22 million guaranteed. Panthers C Ryan Kalil has the most guaranteed money in his deal of any other center, $19 million. Mack can certainly make a case for being the best in the game, but failing to reach a long-term deal with a player, and the use of either the franchise or transition tag only creates a higher basement of guaranteed money a player will command.
The top centers in the game have received somewhere between $10 million (Philadelphia's Jason Kelce) and $19 million (Kalil) with a $14.5 million (Buffalo's Eric Wood) and $16 million (Jets Nick Mangold) filling in the middle ground. Pouncey really cannot consider himself in a position to command anything but that general range.
He'd be smart to take it, too. Coming off a devastating knee injury just eight plays into the season, the Steelers offensive line didn't get on track until the second half of the season. Pouncey was named a team captain in 2013 as well, and if a player could possibly retain value despite significant injury, he may have done just that.
However, if he comes back and isn't at least showing he will eventually get back around his old form, that money will dry up quickly. The Steelers would no doubt be waiting to see Pouncey on the field and running at full speed before committing guaranteed money to him, but considering how young the team's offensive line is, it may be wise to lock up the anchor early, hoping to keep a few parts of it as the years move on.
Pouncey's and right tackle Marcus Gilbert's contracts are up after the 2014 season. Right guard David DeCastro's rookie contract is up after the 2015 season, as are the contracts of tackles Kelvin Beachum and Mike Adams, and left guard Ramon Foster. There's no reason to panic over that, but it is an important season for the young offensive line in determining who the team will commit to and who they will let walk. Pouncey may be the first domino to fall.