The Steelers avoided losing another starter in free agency Thursday by signing Steve McLendon to a three-year contract.
McLendon, projected to replace Casey Hampton as their starting nose tackle, was a restricted free agent who paid a visit Wednesday to the Green Bay Packers.
Had the Packers signed him, the Steelers would have been forced to match that contract or let him go and receive no compensation in return.
His three-year contract with the Steelers is worth $7.25 million with $1.67 million of that in a signing bonus. He had been scheduled to earn $1.3 million in 2013 via his restricted free agent tender.
The deadline for teams to sign restricted free agents is today.
The Steelers already have lost three starters as free agents -- wide receiver Mike Wallace, cornerback Keenan Lewis and halfback Rashard Mendenhall -- and released starting linebacker James Harrison. They kept projected starting receiver Emmanuel Sanders for at least one more year when they matched the one-year, $2.5 million offer sheet Sunday that he had signed with New England.
By signing McLendon so quickly, it was obvious the Steelers feared the Packers would try to sign him.
McLendon joined the Steelers as an undrafted rookie in 2009 and, after spending his first season on their practice squad, he made the 53-man roster in 2010 and moved higher on the depth chart the next two seasons.
He has played in 37 career games, including 16 in 2012 when he had two sacks and forced fumble as Hampton's backup.
First Published April 19, 2013 4:00 AM