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2015 NFL Free Agency: Brandon Graham could make a good Plan B

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With free agency looming and re-signing OLB Jason Worilds the biggest question mark or all, the Steelers would be wise to consider alternative measures if Worilds winds up outside of their price range.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Even the most casual of observers would recognize the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers desperately needed another capable pass-rushing body on their defensive front.  In fact, the sack total generated by last year's Steelers were some of the shoddiest numbers in franchise history, certainly a far cry from their league-leading total orchestrated several seasons ago with James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley at the helm, and worst of all, the lack of pressure generated on opposing quarterbacks meant the Steelers pass defense suffered immensely, as the team ranked 27th in the NFL in that category.

The Steelers find themselves in a bit of a precarious situation; they only have two outside linebackers under contract (Jarvis Jones and CFL product Shawn Lemon).  Additionally, they have two more linebackers set to hit free agency: one the Steelers could easily bring back for an affordable price in Arthur Moats, and another who may ultimately command upwards of $8-10 million annually on the open market in Jason Worilds.  Worilds was the team's best pass rusher last season, his 7.5 sacks tied for the team lead, so it may be in Pittsburgh's best interest to bring him back.  The Steelers, however, might find themselves out of the running if Worilds' salary demands are too pricey.  Someone will overpay Worilds, and the Steelers don't want another Woodley situation on their hands, paying out $8 million in dead money a year after the fact.

Enter Brandon Graham.  A former first round pick from the Philadelphia Eagles who just wrapped up his fifth professional season.  Like Worilds, Graham is only 26-years old, but unlike Worilds, Graham was not a starter for his team last season.  Despite this, Graham still produced decent numbers as a situational pass rusher, forcing four fumbles and generating 5.5 sacks, and his level of talent means it's unlikely he will return to Philadelphia as a backup.  Since he was relegated to a backup role for the Eagles, he could command less money on the open market, but provide a level of production not far off from what Worilds has done.  Philadelphia, however, does possess an excellent linebacker in Connor Barwin, so although Graham won't return to the Eagles as a backup, he very well could as a starter if his old teams wants to pair the two talented linebackers together.

Either way, his best option may be to test the open market to gauge the salary he could command.  Since he hasn't been a regular starter yet in his career, his yearly value could potentially be less than Worilds, Pharnell McPhee or even Jabal Sheard.  If the Steelers can't afford to keep Worilds, Graham could wind up being a reasonably cheaper, equally attractive option to bring to Pittsburgh.