Free agency awaits Steelers' guard Foster
Steelers left guard Ramon Foster will have no problem figuring out one part of the offseason.
“My job is to stay healthy, stay out of trouble, don't end up getting tased on South Beach and get back to training,” he said.
It's when people from other teams start coming at him with complex documents, filled with numbers and dollar signs, that confusion will set in for Foster.
Only hours after the Steelers' season ended with a 23-16 loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC divisional playoffs, Foster's life suddenly became more complicated Monday. Most questions directed toward him by reporters concerned his future after he had built his reputation with a solid past.
A fixture at guard on the Steelers offensive line for the past five years, Foster is one of the team's 20 unrestricted free agents. Whether the Steelers are willing to carry on without him after he missed only five starts since 2011 is a difficult question for him to answer.
“The business part (of the NFL) is what most players don't really like,” he said.
But that's reality at the moment. Foster might be the Steelers' most valuable UFA on a list that includes their top three cornerbacks — William Gay, Antwon Blake and Brandon Boykin — starting strong safety Will Allen and offensive left tackle Kelvin Beachum, who missed the past three months with a knee injury.
Foster's worth to the team is no mystery to Alejandro Villanueva, who replaced Beachum at left tackle as a first-year starter.
“I told Ramon he was almost playing two positions this year,” Villanueva said. “He was playing left tackle and he was playing guard. At the beginning of the season, he was literally telling me who to block almost every play.
“I couldn't have done what I did this season without him.”
The mission of the Steelers' front office is to determine how many salary cap dollars to attach to Foster, Beachum and All-Pro right guard David DeCastro, who is due for a contract extension before he becomes a free agent at the end of the 2016 season.
“I'm not even worried about that right now. That's why I've got an agent, and that's why you pay him,” said DeCastro, who joined Foster as the only members of the offense to play every snap this season.
No matter what happens contractually, the Steelers' line will have a different look next season, assuming center Maurkice Pouncey returns from an ankle injury that wiped out his entire season.
That possibly could leave center Cody Wallace out of the starting lineup, but a candidate to replace Foster, if he is not re-signed.
“Whatever I have to do is fine,” said Wallace, who played part-time guard for the Steelers in 2013 and 2014. “I always kind of rotated back and forth (between center and guard) during the season and camp.”
Wallace's future probably hinges on the Steelers' plans for Foster, who hopes to stay, but isn't ready to make any predictions.
“Three more (seasons) before 10, that would be awesome,” said Foster, who joined the Steelers as an undrafted free agent from Tennessee in 2009. “I can't make that decision. That's upper management.
“The legacy I laid down has been pretty good for myself. We have to see what the business side says about it.”