Steelers notebook: Jones' future may depend on draft
Jarvis Jones' future with the Steelers may come down to the upcoming NFL Draft.
The Steelers haven't made a decision on whether they will pick up the fifth-year option on Jones' rookie contract, and this weekend's draft could influence that decision.
“We won't talk about specific contract-type issues, but I think it is safe to say once we get through the draft, it will affect how we do business with our veteran players from that point forward,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Monday.
The Steelers own the 25th overall pick, and an outside linebacker, albeit not an urgent need, could be a possibility for the Steelers within the first three rounds.
Colbert wouldn't go into specifics about Jones — the Steelers' first-round pick in 2013.
“We avoid talking about individual contacts and fifth-year options,” Colbert said.
The rookie wage scale that was a part of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement required all rookies to sign four-year contracts. For players taken in the first round, the team has the option to extend the contract for an extra season, but that decision has to be made by May 2 the year before the final year of the deal.
The Steelers have used the option both times since the new CBA. In 2014, the Steelers picked up Cam Heyward's option, and in 2015, they picked up David DeCastro's. In both instances, the Steelers picked up the option well before the deadlines — April 22 for Heyward and April 9 for DeCastro.
If the Steelers pick up Jones' fifth-year option, he would get a guaranteed salary of $8.369 million on the first day of the 2017 new league year. If the Steelers don't pick up the option, Jones would be an unrestricted free agent following the 2016 season.
When a team picks up a player's fifth-year option, it is a strong indication they plan to sign him to a long-term extension.
• Colbert said that the Steelers will not move up in the draft, but could move back. “Trading up will be unlikely,” he said. “We just don't have enough picks. As far down as we are, it's always expensive. We will always leave ourselves open to trading back.”
• Coach Mike Tomlin came up with the most colorful quotes of the day when asked about drafting defensive players to fit their particular scheme. “We had the analogy brought up several times in the draft room: If you have red paint, paint the barn red,” said Tomlin.
• The Steelers won't necessarily be turned off from a player because of injury, which means that West Virginia safety Karl Joseph and Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller could be possibilities early in the draft. “You evaluate them based on what they did, and you follow that up with what our doctors will tell us, when they will be healthy,” Colbert said. “It's a projection, it's a guess and we have to take a calculated risk, and we'll try to do that.”
• Colbert said a decision won't be made on free agent quarterback Bruce Gradkowski until after the draft. Gradkowski, who had shoulder surgery during the season, recently worked out for the Steelers, and Colbert said it was “satisfactory.”