The Pittsburgh Steelers have been known to lock up a core player or two long term just about every training camp but that likely won’t happen this training camp.
The two key veterans seeking long-term deals with the Steelers this off-season have been kicker Jeff Reed and cornerback Ike Taylor.
Meanwhile, LaMarr Woodley, the Steelers starting left outside linebacker is entering the final year of his contract and could become an unrestricted free agent after the season. However, the CBA has made it near impossible for the Steelers, Woodley to agree to a deal that works for both sides.
The Steelers can only give Woodley a 30% raise over his current salary and there has been no negotiations to this point between super agent Drew Rosenhaus who represents Woodley and Omar Khan, the Steelers chief contract negotiator.
Woodley, 25, is an emerging star in the league and has 25 sacks the past two seasons, including 8 career playoff sacks in 4 games.
Woodley will command over $20 million in guaranteed money and he’s the Steelers top priority long-term but the difficult circumstances surrounding the CBA has put Woodley on the back burner for now.
However, sources indicated in May that Woodley has expressed frustrations about the Steelers lack of creativity in trying to get something done.
Woodley still appears to be a lock to remain with the Steelers beyond 2010 but the future is unclear for Reed and Taylor.
The Steelers and Reed did not agree on a new multi-year contract before the July 15th deadline and Reed will play out the 2010 season on his franchise tender which will pay him $2.841 million.
Don Henderson the agent for Reed, met several times with Omar Khan since the begining of June but the two sides were unable to strike a new deal.
There has been a mutual interest from both sides in trying to get something done since the Steelers placed the franchise tag on Reed in February. However, it’s believed the two sides were never close to an agreement leading up to the July 15th deadline.
Reed is seeking a four year deal in the range of $14 million and wants to be one of the top 5 paid kickers in the game.
The Steelers approached Reed’s camp about a three year deal with a salary under $3 million, a league source tells Inside Pittsburgh Sports.
Reed, 31, remains one of the most reliable field goal kickers in the game. Reed made 27 of 31 field goal attempts last season but struggled mightily on kickoffs in 2009.
That issue of his game will likely only get worse as he becomes older.
Reed told the Tribune-Review in June that he wants to remain with the Steelers long-term but in so many words, won’t accept a below market deal just to stay with the Steelers.
“I want it to happen — they want it to happen — but I’m not just going to sign anything,” Reed told the paper in June.
Cornerback Ike Taylor is entering the final year of a 5 year – $22.5 million deal he signed in 2006. Taylor’s future with the Steelers is much more unclear than Reed’s.
Taylor’s deal in 2006 was negotiated by agent Scott Smith who no longer represents Taylor. Taylor is now represented by high powered agent Joel Segal who is seeking one last big payday for his client.
Taylor, 30, is coming off a subpar season and there are concerns inside the organization that he could be on the downside of his career.
At this point there has been no talks or negotiations between Segal and the Steelers. It remains unlikely that contract talks will intensify between now and the regular season opener.
Taylor future with the Steelers will depend on his demands, development of young cornerbacks and his ability to rebound from a disappointing 2009 season.
Taylor has the rare combination of size and speed for a cornerback. He stands 6 feet 1, weighs 191 pounds and at age 30 can still run with the elite receivers in the league.
However, Taylor has no playmaking ability and below average awarness on deep balls, which makes giving him another big contract very risky.
With Deshea Townsend out of the picture, Taylor is now the longest tenured cornerback on the Steelers roster, entering his 8th NFL season.
The Steelers traded for Bryant McFadden this off-season who will start alongside Taylor. Pittsburgh signed McFadden to a reasonable 3 year contract worth $7.75 million in April.
Keenan Lewis, William Gay and Joe Burnett project to round out the Steelers top-5 this season.
The team is very intrigued about the development of 2nd year cornerback Keenan Lewis who the team is hopeful will develop into a starter by next season.