It’s Scouting Combine week, and the NFL world is focused on the 300+ athletes headed to Indianapolis to make their biggest statement for the 2023 NFL Draft. But let’s not forget that for most NFL teams, the start of Free Agency is just as big a deal when it comes to aspirations for 2023 and beyond.
After the Combine concludes, all eyes and ears will be tuned in for March 13, which opens the legal tampering period for teams and players to strike deals in principle. It’s a chance for a big paycheck for some and a fresh start for others. For many of the Steelers 2023 Free Agents, a return to the black and gold for another season may not work out, and these players will be looking for employment elsewhere.
Let’s take a look at four of the Steelers’ higher-profile Free Agents to get a feel for their potential market come mid-March. We’ll talk potential asking price, interested teams, and even what it would take to get these guys back in house. Let’s dive in!
CB Cameron Sutton
Spotrac estimated Market Value: $7.6M Avg. Annual Salary (3 yrs, $22.9M contract)
If we’re honest with ourselves, Cam Sutton will likely rake in almost double Spotrac’s estimate of per year salary as one of the more coveted FA cornerbacks on the market. Teams courting Sutton would likely need to offer a $11M+ per year deal over 3-4 years to land the former 3rd Round pick’s services for 2023. The Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons are projected to have good cap room and make a lot of sense for Sutton, who could step in and be either team’s top CB right away. Could division rival Cincinnati make a play for another former Steelers corner? They need help in the secondary as well. I think Sutton would take a couple mil less to stay in Pittsburgh based on talks, but that probably still looks like a 3 yr, $33.0M deal with good guarantees. I think the Steelers make a strong push to bring him back, but he’ll be a hot commodity come March 13, so don’t be surprised if he rakes in a bigger contract than Pittsburgh can match in good conscience.
DL Larry Ogunjobi
Spotrac estimated Market Value: $3.4M Avg. Annual Salary (2 yrs, $6.9M contract)
I think Spotrac is shooting low on Ogunjobi’s estimated contract valuation here as well. Larry O is coming off another solid season in his 1-year prove-it deal with Pittsburgh, and he’ll likely garner a similar per year number that he received in 2022 (approx. $8M/yr). Team’s looking for a good all-round player on the interior DL will look Ogunjobi’s way in the 2nd wave of Free Agency. Every team needs DL depth, but if you sign Larry, you’re likely signing him as a low end starter. I actually think Pittsburgh has a really good shot a retaining Ogunjobi, and he may want to stay put somewhere for a few years after playing AFC North Journeyman for the majority of his career.
SS Terrell Edmunds
Spotrac estimated Market Value: $5.4M Avg. Annual Salary (2 yrs, $5.4M contract)
Edmunds should be a guy the Steelers try to lock down quickly because his market should be much more lively in 2023 than it was last year. The in-state rival Eagles will be looking for cheaper solutions to revamp their soon-to-be-ravaged post-Super Bowl roster and they’ll have a need at safety. Other teams that could show interest are the Bears, Chiefs, and Bills. Chicago has cap space for days and will be looking for upgrades across the board, while the Bills and Chiefs are looking to reload title contenders with plus starters that won’t break the bank. I still think the Steelers have the inside track for Edmunds as well. If they him walk, though, you’d have to believe it’s because they feel they can retain fellow Free Agent SS Damontae Kazee or bring in an outside free agent at a more cost-effective number.
LB Devin Bush
Spotrac estimated Market Value: $3.0M Avg. Annual Salary (1 yrs, $3.06M contract)
If Devin Bush is a Steeler in 2023, it might be wise to ask for a weather report from you-know-where, because the two sides seem destined for a split after the team chose to forgo Bush’s 5th-year option and he was seemingly passed over down the stretch of 2022 by Robert Spillane (also a FA). For Bush’s market, you’re looking at two kinds of potentially intersted parties. One, teams who hope a change of scenery and new role can return the former top 10 pick to pre-knee-injury form. Two, teams who just need a rotational ILB to travel with TEs and bring starter experience to a locker room. How ironic would it be for Bush to sign with Denver, a LB-needy team that the Steelers originally swapped picks with to move up for Bush in 2019. The Raiders also need LB help and the LA Rams could be in play for a cheap alternative at the position after moving on from Bobby Wagner for cap reasons. Bush will likely land the type of cheap, 1-year prove-it-deal that teams are often happy to give out to high-pedigree athletes who haven’t reached their potential with the team that drafted them. Bush fits that bill.
The Steelers’ group of Free Agents should find plenty of interested parties on the open market in 2023, and I will be keeping a close eye on how the cards play out for these four players specifically. Feel free to hit me up in the comments with your thoughts, and, as always, go Steelers!