Two of the Steelers' three "priorities" were locked up before free agency began, and that means the third one is not happy. Free safety Ryan Clark desperately wants to stay with the Steelers, but apparently not enough to take much less money than he thinks he's worth.
Still, he saw the "love" doled out to nose tackle Casey Hampton and even kicker Jeff Reed as the franchise player while the Steelers have performed their traditional non-committal "negotiations" with Clark's agent.
The result? Clark became an unrestricted free agent Friday and he will not go quietly into the night.
"I haven't had an offer yet. Nothing put to paper or even said verbally. We want to get this deal done," Clark said.
"We bent over backwards to get it done before the (2009) season. You hear so much about being a priority and things like that. I mean if you think about it there have been a number of guys who have signed a contract and I haven't been offered -- Heath Miller, Justin Hartwig, Brett Keisel, Casey, Jeff. You know? So it's not like one guy got signed and the well ran dry and there was nothing they could do. It hasn't been that.
"If you think about priorities and prioritizing, obviously I was way down on the list as they go."
The Steelers have announced that all of their other unrestricted free agents, including running back Willie Parker, cornerback Deshea Townsend, defensive ends Nick Eason and Travis Kirschke and safety Tyrone Carter would not be talked to before free agency starts. Kevin Colbert, their director of football operations, said they might try to get some of them back after they test the market.
That almost surely will now include Clark. One of the problems for Clark is the big contract they pay their other safety, Troy Polamalu, who will count about $8.3 million against their cap in 2010 if there were one. They are not about to sink another $5 million or $6 million into their other safety.
"You know, I'm not going to ask for $6 1/2, 7 million a year," Clark said. "I wouldn't do that. I know how much Troy makes and I know how much respect I have for Troy as a player and how much I love him as a friend. I don't see myself as Troy's (equal), I don't see myself having to get that same type of pay. So it's not a situation, 'Oh, you have to pay me how Troy's getting paid. I would be a fool to do that."
Clark sounded as if he were wounded by the lack of a real offer from the Steelers.
"They showed their love and commitment to Jeff even though it's only one year, $2.8 million, Brett Keisel, Heath Miller, Justin Hartwig. All these guys have been shown some type of love that says, 'you know what, we want you here, we're willing to work with you to get you here,' I haven't gotten it."
Clark will have to try to get it elsewhere while the Steelers look for his replacement at free safety. Super-smart Ryan Mundy, entering his third season, is the logical replacement unless they find someone in the draft or free agency.
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