Steelers offer contracts to 6 restricted free agents

| Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A quiet Monday at Steelers headquarters proved to be a fitting prelude to the start of free agency.

History and spending limitations all but ensure that the Steelers will do little during the NFL shopping frenzy that kicks off today. The franchise that rarely makes a major signing during free agency may, in fact, have to play a little defense.

Mike Wallace can field offers from other teams starting at 4 p.m. today, and the Steelers are vulnerable to losing the Pro Bowl wide receiver, although they have protected themselves if he signs with another team.

The Steelers have offered Wallace a one-year, $2.742 million contract — he was one of six restricted free agents tendered deals yesterday — but he is still free to negotiate with other teams.

The Steelers have the right to match any offer made to Wallace. If they allow him to sign elsewhere, they get that team's first-round pick in next month's draft as compensation.

Wallace received the highest tender offer that teams can make to restricted free agents. Cornerback Keenan Lewis, guards Ramon Foster and Doug Legursky, safety Ryan Mundy and tight end David Johnson received original tenders and accompanying one-year, $1.26 million contracts.

If a player with an original tender offer signs elsewhere, the Steelers receive a draft pick in whatever round that player was taken. Offensive tackle Jamon Meredith was the only restricted free agent to whom the Steelers did not offer a contract.

The contracts the Steelers offered yesterday take up much of the room they had cleared under the salary cap.

The spending limitation for 2012 is $120.6 million per team, and that represents a miniscule increase from the $120.375 million that franchises were allowed to spend on player salaries last season.

The Steelers were roughly $10.5 million under the cap. Whatever savings remain after the offers they made yesterday will likely be used on their own unrestricted free agents.

Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, cornerback William Gay and quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch are among the Steelers who are free agents.

The Steelers have talked to Cotchery's agent about a return to Pittsburgh in 2012, while Gay is coming off his best season, having started for the NFL's top pass defense in 2011.

General manager Kevin Colbert has said the Steelers are interested in bringing back both Leftwich and Batch because there is little in the way of experience behind starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Additional Information:

Free to go

Ten Steelers players become unrestricted free agents at 4 p.m. today. Not included on this list are former Steelers such as wide receiver Hines Ward, linebacker James Farrior and guard Chris Kemoeatu. The three have been free to sign with other teams since last Friday, when the Steelers terminated their contracts.

QB Charlie Batch

QB Dennis Dixon

WR Jerricho Cotchery

G Trai Essex

CB William Gay

QB Byron Leftwich

CB Anthony Madison

RB Mewelde Moore

P Daniel Sepulveda

OT Max Starks

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