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Predicting the Steelers offseason - Part Two: Tackling the Free Agent market

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In the second part of the series, I reach into the free agent market. Will it be a success?

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Part 2 of this multi-part series winds through a fictional offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers with me at the helm. In Part 1 as acting GM for the Pittsburgh Steelers, I guided the Black and Gold through their own FA signings. Now I head onto the market to shore up some of our holes via signings of non-Steeler FAs. I will not diverge much from Colbert's history of not making big splash FA moves or cutting ties with long-time Steeler players. (Big Ben, you're safe from my ax, at least for now.) The salary cap will continue to be my main nemesis. My best ally is not dollars, but players want to be a part of the Steelers’ long, storied tradition of winning.

Players under contract -- 55

Starting cap room -- $40,543,733

Cap spent -- $24,787,000

Pre FA cap space -- $15,756,733

March 9 through April 26

The first order of business getting the Steelers 12 reserve/futures contracts signed. As these contracts are outside the Top 51 rule, they have no effect on the Steelers’ cap. WHEW!!!

Free agency is in full swing and I have my shopping list in hand. The Steelers rarely make a splash in the FA market, and this offseason will be no exception. This is partially because we do not have gigantic roster holes to fill, but also not having a lot of cap space to work with. My list is small but specifically targeting players with upside. The one glaring need is an inside linebacker. The departure of Timmons opens a void that Vince Williams can not fill due to his limited cover skills. One thing to always keep in mind, anytime I sign a player another player will fall out of the Top 51 rule if the player being signed carries a higher cap value.

Former Vikings and 49er Gerald Hodges fills this role and I sign him to a two-year $4.5 million contract that includes a $500,000 signing bonus. As a former safety, he excels in coverage. Hodges immediately comes in and provides a much-needed upgrade of VW. The move allows flexibility in nickel packages, which the Steelers have used often. Cap hit -- $3 million. Net cap hit -- $2,460,000

Alex Okafor has been oft-injured during his time with Arizona, I ink him to a one-year prove-it deal. He was a former DT in college, Okafor was taken in the third round and has flashed talent during his four-year career. Okafor slides into a direct backup role at ROLB. I am not paying him starter money nor does he deserve it. Cap hit -- $900,000 million Net cap hit -- $360,000

Brian Schwenke is a former starting center for the Titans but lost his job prior to 2016. He will be a nice depth signing with LG experience. I land him to a two-year deal worth $1.8 million. Cap hit -- $900,000. Net cap hit -- $360,000

Robert Blanton has the skills to play either SS or FS. He has starting experience but will be relied upon as a ST player in a one-year deal I sign him to. Cap hit -- $850,000. Net cap hit -- $310,000.

Now onto the toughest part of my job -- releasing a player. Unfortunately Ladarius Green just could not stay healthy in his lone season here in Pittsburgh. His offseason ankle surgery was slow to heal and suspected lingering effects from concussions suffered in 2015, stalled his season until Week 9. The next six weeks saw a mixed bag of production, but that all came to a screeching halt in Week 14 against the Bengals. Green suffered another concussion and did not play again the rest of the season. It has been reported he had five concussions since 2014.

Personally, I think it is in his best interest to retire. I will also designate him a post-June 1 cut to limit the Steelers cap hit. Two issues with making him a post-June 1 designation. His 2017 salary remains on the books until June 1. As he has three years remaining on his contract, his salary was prorated over the years, this changes to two years. Dead money for 2017 is $1,781,250 but will have a cap savings of $3,218,750.

WOW! I made it through the first three months without completely destroying the cap. I dented it heavily and am nervous about it. Do you think we are sitting flush with cap space? But wait! The Steelers have some big ticket players to take care of in the upcoming months.

Here is how the Steelers stand heading into the draft in this theoretical exercise as me being the GM.

Players under contract– 70

Starting cap room-- $15,756,733

Cap spent in FA -- $3,490,000

Pre draft cap space -- $15,485,483