The Steelers, a team that normally moves slowly and cautiously in free agency, has also taken that approach with their own players whose contracts run out in two weeks.
The only Steelers' player known to have had any kinds of talks since the Super Bowl about a new contract is offensive tackle Jonathan Scott. He started the final 11 games, including the post-season, for injured Max Starks at left tackle. Scott came from Buffalo as a free agent last year and signed a one-year deal.
He's the type of free agent they believe they might be able to re-sign at a reasonable price before the league goes into lockdown.
Their top free agents, though, have not received as much as a phone call from the Steelers. They include linebacker LaMarr Woodley, cornerback Ike Taylor and offensive tackle Willie Colon. Woodley's people expect him to receive the franchise tag next week and that might be the only move Pittsburgh makes for a while.
They have 15 players that could become unrestricted free agents under the old rules of a collective bargaining agreement.
Woodley would earn about $10 million in 2011 as Pittsburgh's franchise player, but the Steelers would like to sign him to a long-term deal the way they did with Starks in 2009 after they tagged him as their franchise player.
Woodley earned only $550,000 last season, his fourth and third as their starting left outside linebacker. He and Colon fell victims of the uncapped year in 2010 when the rules changed.
Before last year, players could become unrestricted free agents after four seasons, provided their contracts expired. That changed to six years last year and that affected Colon greatly. He lost out on a potential long-term contract or as a free agent. Instead, Colon was restricted and signed a one-year tender for $2.198 million, then was lost for the season when his Achilles ruptured in June.
Woodley fell victim to the new 30-percent rule that went into effect in the uncapped year because even though the Steelers would have liked to sign him a year ago to a new deal, they would have been limited to giving him only 30-percent raises above his $550,000 salary each year. The alternative was to give him a whopping signing bonus and they were unprepared to give him that, which would have run at least $25 million and probably more.
So Woodley played at a salary far below his worth and the Steelers will make that up to him in a new contract, in the meantime guaranteeing him that he will earn at minimum $10 million in 2011 provided there is a season.
The Steelers also would have a transition tag available to them and they could use that, say, to keep Taylor. But they are not expected to do so and remain confident that even after free agency begins - if indeed it does at all - they will be able to re-sign their best cornerback.
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