With nose tackle Casey Hampton and kicker Jeff Reed in the fold, the Steelers turn their full attention to safety Ryan Clark with the clock counting down until he can become an unrestricted free agent.
Clark, 30, has been the team's starting free safety the past four seasons after they signed him as a UFA from the Washington Redskins. The Steelers passed on the opportunity to use either the franchise or transition tag on Clark, using the franchise on Reed and not deploying the transition available to them.
Clark would have cost them $6 million to transition and $6,455,000 to franchise and they considered that far too much to pay, especially with strong safety Troy Polamalu the second-highest paid safety in the league at $6,495,000 last season.
The two sides are nowhere close to coming to a contract agreement but Reed's agent believes they still can get something done over the next week.
"They've paid plenty of other players a lot more than we're asking for," agent Joel Turner said. "It's not a situation where Ryan is asking for too much money. We're not asking for more than most people would. Keep in mind, Ryan is the best free safety not only in unrestricted free agency but restricted free agency. He's the best free safety in the business."
The Steelers, though, are prepared to replace Clark with Ryan Mundy, who will enter his third season, if they cannot come to terms on a new contract. Mundy, a sixth-round draft choice in 2006, played in a backup role last season after spending part of his rookie year on their practice squad.
"They have an opportunity to keep a guy like Ryan the next four or five years and I don't see how they can't," Turner said. "There's not a rookie out there who can come in and be close to him."
The Steelers signed Hampton, 33, to a three-year, $21.3 million contract with a $6.5 million signing bonus. Reed will earn $2,814,000 as their franchise player in 2010, although they will continue to try to come to terms on a multi-year deal.
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