The NFL’s new calendar year is almost upon us.
With that, will come the league’s latest free-agent frenzy, which will kick off on Wednesday around 4 p.m. EST. But even before that free-agent frenzy, there will be a legal-tampering frenzy that will begin on Monday; teams will be able to agree to terms with prospective free agents even before they’re technically free agents.
That’s what happened a year ago when the Steelers, flush with salary-cap room for the first time in ages, agreed in principle to a deal with Mitch Trubisky, a veteran quarterback who was expected to come in and be nothing less than a bridge to the team’s next franchise player at the most important position in all of team sports.
But what if Trubisky was even more than that? He was certainly young enough. After his departure from the Bears following the 2020 campaign, Trubisky, who was picked second overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, spent a season as the Bills’ backup behind Josh Allen.
Trubisky learned so much thanks to better coaching in Buffalo, they said.
Trubisky was again ready to prove his worth as a starter in the NFL. He was the top quarterback in free agency when the legal-tampering phase kicked off last March. Pittsburgh wasted no time in reaching a two-year deal with Trubisky.
I remember where I was when my brother called me to give me the news.
“Wow,” I said. “I’m going to be rooting for Mitch Trubisky.” My brother and I sat there and thought of nicknames for Trubisky—Mitchburgh, Bisquit, Trubs, etc.
Not long after, Pittsburgh agreed to deals with offensive linemen Mason Cole and James Daniels. I believe cornerback Levi Wallace was next. Soon after, Gunner Olszewski, an accomplished return specialist, was brought into the fold. Finally, Myles Jack, an inside linebacker who was once the Devin Bush that Devin Bush never was, came to town via Jacksonville.
We were so excited to talk about last March’s free-agent class.
The Steelers, again, flush with cap space for the first time in many moons, felt like free-agent winners.
What grade did you give the Steelers 2022 free-agent class? I felt like they addressed many important needs, so I believe I gave them a B. Maybe a B+. Heck, it could have been an A-.
All I know is, I was very pleased with what Kevin Colbert did on his way out the door.
Overall, I think the Steelers 2022 free-agent class did well enough during the regular season. Cole and Daniels certainly filled holes along the offensive line. Wallace was a solid starting cornerback and seemed to come on as the season progressed. Jack was mostly a steady presence at inside linebacker. As I kind of alluded to earlier, Jack wasn’t the Jack that he was in Jacksonville, but he was a decent player for the Steelers' defense.
As for Gunner? Yikes, but these things tend to happen.
What about Mitchburgh? It wasn’t long before he became unpopular with the fans and was ultimately benched in favor of Kenny Pickett, the rookie quarterback who made everyone realize that Mitchburgh, Bisquit, Trubs, etc. really was just a bridge to the franchise’s future.
Did the Steelers, flush with cap space for the first time in years, hit any home runs with their 2022 free-agent class? (Btw, they also signed Larry Ogunjobi last summer.)
Not really, not unless finding a couple of solid starting linemen and a decent-enough cornerback counts as a few four-baggers.
Heading into the 2023 free-agent frenzy, the Steelers, once again in their familiar position of not having a ton of cap room, may have to part ways with some guys just to have some salary flexibility.
Trubisky—Mitchburgh, Bisquit, Trubs, etc.—is a candidate to be a cap causality. He has one year left on his deal and may be too expensive for a backup—a quality backup, mind you, but a backup, nonetheless.
Jack is someone else who could become a cap causality. Yes, he’s solid, but maybe not solid enough—if only he was the Jack he was in Jacksonville.
As for Gunner? It was nice knowing you. Btw, Steven Sims digs your locker, man.
Will Larry O, who signed a one-year deal, be back? At a discount, perhaps--do they really want to sign an injury-prone defensive lineman to a lucrative contract?
Perhaps they can find another Larry O this year.
If the Steelers do cut Trubisky and Jack, they’ll have to find another Trubisky and Jack. Will these new players be upgrades? I’m sure we’ll talk ourselves into believing they are. We may even give the Steelers' 2023 free-agent class a B+ or even an A-.
The Steelers may even be declared free-agent winners.
Anyway, the Steelers, flush with cap space for the first time in ages, didn’t really hit any free-agent home runs in 2022.
What does that tell you, that we probably shouldn’t put too much stock in these free-agent frenzies?
We will, though, and then we’ll do it all over again next March.
Happy free-agent frenzy!