While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have addressed most of their keys needs during the 2019 NFL Draft, it would be fair to say that they still appear to be relatively light at safety. With just four players on the roster who have ever seen a snap at the professional level and two undrafted free agent currently representing the entire position group ahead of OTA’s, adding another veteran name to the mix might be a good idea.
At this stage of the year in 2018, the Steelers were preparing to start the offseason with free agent signings Morgan Burnett and Nat Berhe among the names competing for a roster spot with Sean Davis, Jordan Dangerfield, Malik Golden and rookies Terrell Edmunds and Marcus Allen. A year on and Pittsburgh has let both free agent signings leave, Golden was not re-signed and the only additions have been undrafted rookies Dravon Askew-Henry and P.J. Locke.
A stagnant safety market left a number of viable options on the open market until well after the draft last year, but the same cannot be said of the current list of names still looking for a home in 2019. And if the Steelers have any hopes of upgrading their depth at the position ahead of training camp, barring a release elsewhere, there appears to be only two credible free agent safety candidates still available.
Should Pittsburgh be willing to revisit a free agent they met with last year, they could yet add someone who has the skills to fill in at both safety positions if needed and the durability to suggest he will last a full season, unlike some of the options they tried in 2018.
At only 26-years old, it is something of a surprise to see former Arizona Cardinals safety Tre Boston still without a team. The North Carolina product has started 38 games over the past three seasons for the Cardinals, Los Angeles Chargers and Carolina Panthers, recording a total of 211 tackles, 10 interceptions, 24 passes defended, two sacks and a forced fumble.
Tre Boston finished the 2018 season by allowing the lowest passer rating when targeted among all NFC West defensive players. pic.twitter.com/meyzGKjADt— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 3, 2019
Selected by the Panthers in the fourth-round of the 2014 NFL Draft , Boston was the 24th highest-graded safety in the league by Pro Football Focus last year, his overall grade of 74.1 the second highest score of his career to date. As per PFF, he allowed just 18 receptions on 30 targets for 189 yards and two touchdowns in 2018.
Signed to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million by Arizona just before training camp last year, it is doubtful that Boston will command much more in 2019 having sat on the open market for so long once again. Open about his desire for a multi-year deal, the Steelers should be able to offer him a deal that matches his needs and still fits within their tight cap situation.
Doesn’t mean much but Stats are beyond there! OBVIOUSLY!! The Players see it, the Fans see it, and are starting to question what’s going on. I like it, keep asking question. You’ll see what’s really up. 2 Prove It Deals.... What’s left to prove? Lol Bout to jump on Offense. Lol https://t.co/CLhw3epzlZ— Tre Boston (@TreBos10) April 5, 2019
It is perhaps a sign of how weak the existing free agent market is at safety that a player who has managed just three games in the last two years is one of the only other credible option left at the position this offseason besides Boston, but the former Kansas City Chiefs standout was arguably one of the league’s best safeties when healthy.
Aside from his currently level of fitness, perhaps the biggest obstacle to signing Eric Berry would be how much money he could reasonable expect to command. Anything too far above the league minimum would be difficult to accommodate, but it is hard to imagine the player who signed the largest contract ever given to a safety in 2017 will be prepared to discount himself that much. Having received just under $30 million from the Chiefs in the past two seasons alone, Berry could well consider sitting out the year if he cannot find the sort of money he is looking for.
As a mentor to Davis and Edmunds, Berry could be invaluable, and if he was looking for a reserve role to ease himself back into football after missing most of 2017 and 2018, the Steelers could offer him the perfect situation. With Davis set to be a free agent in 2020, Berry could easily play himself into that job long-term as well.
Berry last played a full season in 2016, recording 77 tackles, nine passes defensed, four interceptions and scoring twice. A season that received an overall grade of 89.9 from PFF. If the Steelers can get a fraction of the snaps he played at that level in 2019, the signing could be well worth it.