The Steelers locked up two of their acknowledged three priorities this week before they could become unrestricted free agents by signing nose tackle Casey Hampton and making kicker Jeff Reed their franchise player.
Their other priority, safety Ryan Clark, was not tagged as the team continues to negotiate with his agent before he can become unrestricted next Friday.
They have not negotiated with any of their other free agents.
Hampton received a three-year deal worth $21.3 million that includes a $6.5 million signing bonus. Reed will earn $2,814,000 in 2010 as the franchise player. Since he was designated a non-exclusive franchise player, Reed can solicit other offers but since the Steelers would receive two first-round draft choices in return, it virtually kills any negotiations with other teams. However, the Steelers will continue to pursue a long-term deal with their kicker.
Clark and the Steelers are not close to a deal and it is likely he will not have one in place when free agency starts March 5.
The Steelers were prepared to make Hampton, 33, their franchise player even though the Pro Bowl nose tackle was vehemently against such a move. He said near the end of last season that he was promised they would not put the franchise tag on him.
Reed was hoping to get a long-term contract for much more on average per year than what he will receive under the franchise tag. Oakland signed Sebastian Janikowski recently to a four-year, $16 million contract and while Reed did not think he could approach that, he felt he deserved more than $3 million on average.
Hampton, the team's first-round draft pick in 2001 from Texas, made the Pro Bowl for the fifth time this past season and has been a key to one of the best defenses' in the NFL during his nine seasons. He has started since his rookie season. He was selected to the team's 75th Anniversary Team.
"We are pleased to know that Casey Hampton will be a member of our team for years to come," said Steelers president Art Rooney II. "Casey has been an important member of our club for nearly a decade, and we hope that this contract will allow him to finish his career as a Pittsburgh Steeler."
The Steelers signed Reed during a kicking tryout in the middle of the 2002 season and has become their second all-time scoring leader with 855 points. He made 27 of his 31 field goal tries in 2009 when he missed only two under 50 yards.
--Two Steelers will be inducted into their respective college athletic halls of fame Saturday. Linebacker James Harrison will be honored by Kent State and quarterback Charlie Batch will be inducted by Eastern Michigan University.
--Longtime Steelers scout Bill Nunn was part of the 11-man inaugural class enshrined into the Black College Football Hall of Fame last Saturday in Atlanta. Nunn, 84, was instrumental first as a journalist and then a scout in recognizing football players at the small black schools starting in the 1960s when he was sports editor of the prominent Pittsburgh Courier newspaper. He picked a black All-American team for the paper before he was hired as a scout for the Steelers in the late 1960s.
Others inducted with him last Saturday were players Buck Buchanan of Grambling, Willie Galimore of Florida A&M, Deacon Jones of South Carolina State, Willie Lanier of Morgan State, Walter Payton of Jackson State, Jerry Rice of Mississippi Valley State, Ben Stevenson of Tuskegee and Tank Younger of Grambling, and coaches Eddie Robinson of Grambling and Jake Gaither of Florida A&M.
--Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has two years left on his first contract, typically a time when the Steelers negotiate an extension.
"I don't like to speculate on what we're going to do with the coach," team president Art Rooney II said, "but let's just say we certainly hope and believe Mike's going to be here for the long term and we'll deal with contract situations as they come up."
QUOTE TO NOTE
"It's not as deep as it has been obviously because there's a lot of players that are now restricted free agents that would have been unrestricted. It's a much deeper restricted free agent market than it's ever been." -- Steelers boss Kevin Colbert on free-agent class.
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