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Colon's career has several paths when lockout ends

By Scott Brown
Thursday, June 30, 2011
 

His future has not generated as much speculation as Ike Taylor's but Willie Colon finds himself in a similar situation as the Steelers cornerback.

Colon wants to stay in Pittsburgh. But, like Taylor, Colon acknowledges that a decision he may have to make in the near future is a business one, too.

Colon is expected to be an unrestricted free agent once the NFL lockout ends. And a number of factors could complicate his returning to the team for which he started 54 consecutive games at right tackle from 2006-09.

They range from a potential crowd the Steelers have at tackle to how much of a priority the organization will make Colon when teams have a limited period to sign free agents and draft picks.

What may be low — or lower than some might think — on the Steelers' list of considerations when it comes to Colon: the foot injury he sustained a little over a year ago.

That is how well Colon is moving around after missing last season because of a ruptured Achilles tendon.

"You wouldn't even know anything's wrong with him," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.

Colon shredded his right Achilles tendon while running sprints at the Steelers' facility last June. The 6-foot-3, 315-pounder said he had fully recovered from the injury by January and that the lockout is all that prevented him from practicing during the offseason.

"When I've got to go against (LaMarr) Woodley and some of those other guys, then I will know where I'm exactly at," Colon said, "but right now, I feel great."

What may be more of a question for the Steelers is where Colon fits into their plans — both this year and beyond.

Flozell Adams, who signed with the Steelers last July, exceeded expectations after moving from left to right tackle. All indications are that he wants to return for the second and final year of his contract.

Also, the Steelers used their second-round draft pick in April on 6-6, 330-pound Marcus Gilbert, though they plan to try him at both tackle and guard before deciding where he best fits.

Even if Colon returns to the Steelers, he could be on the move.

Coach Mike Tomlin and offensive line coach Sean Kugler have said they are open to the possibility of Colon playing guard in 2011. That is something that could be particularly intriguing to the Steelers if left tackle Max Starks makes a healthy return from a neck injury — and if the coaches are confident they can coax another good year out of the 36-year-old Adams.

Perhaps the biggest factor working against such a move is the Steelers did not have the luxury of experimenting during the offseason since all practices were a casualty of the lockout.

"I'm not against it," Colon said of moving to guard, "but nevertheless, I feel like I'm a right tackle. We pull (left guard) Chris (Kemoeatu) so much that if I was to move to guard, I know I could add some balance. However, my heart is at tackle. I love the challenge of playing out there."

The Steelers and Joe Linta have never had serious discussions on a long-term deal for Colon. But Linta, Colon's agent, said he is ready to talk when the NFL re-opens for business.

"I think Willie's the No. 1 or No. 2 right tackle in football," Linta said. "I would hope they want him back but if they don't I feel confident someone will."

Colon, a self-described "blue-collar player," said he is looking for a fair deal when the time comes for him to sign a long-term contract. He also will look out for his family.

Colon's mother has Lupus and cannot work. She lives with Colon, who said he has been the "man" of the house since his father passed away prior to the Steelers' Super Bowl win against the Arizona Cardinals in early 2009.

"My heart is definitely in Pittsburgh but like my agent has stressed and I've stressed I've got to be able to help my family," said Colon, who signed a one-year, $2.52 million deal in 2010. "Being a Steelers is an honor in itself but with that said my goal is just to flat out be the best football player I can, if not for the Steelers then somebody."

Status update

Steelers right tackle Willie Colon, who has signed two one-year contracts as a restricted free agent since 2009, could become an unrestricted free agent. Here is a look at the two types of free agent he will be once a collective bargaining agreement is reached:

Unrestricted free agent: Colon has five years of accrued service and is waiting to see if that is enough for him to hit the open market once a new CBA is in place.

Chances: Highly likely. Owners want to rein in guaranteed money given to rookies, and they may have to give a little when it comes to granting players unrestricted free agency.

Restricted free agent: The Steelers have already extended Colon a one-year offer as a restricted free agent. If he signs it once the lockout ends and then signs elsewhere, the Steelers get a chance to match the offer or receive a first-round pick in return for Colon.

Chances: Slim. It's hard to imagine a new CBA in which players with at least five years of service don't become unrestricted free agents. They needed six years in 2010 but that was the exception, not the rule.

 

 
 


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