Steelers reportedly have deal with former San Diego tight end
March 9, 2016 10:53 PM
Alex Gallardo/Associated Press
San Diego Chargers tight end Ladarius Green.
By Ed Bouchette and Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers signed two of their own starters before they hit free agency and then late Wednesday night they agreed in principle to a contract with their first outside free agent, according to several reports.
Former San Diego tight end Ladarius Green is visiting the Steelers today and taking a physical, according to a team source. Pending the outcome of the physical he is expected to sign a reported $20 million deal over four years.
Green is expected to take over as the starter at tight end after the retirement of Heath Miller last month. Green, who will turn 26 in May, has 77 career receptions and seven touchdowns. Last season was his best season. He had 37 receptions for 429 yards and four touchdowns.
San Diego’s fourth-round pick in 2012, Green has been mostly the backup behind San Diego’s longtime starter Antonio Gates, who agreed to a two-year deal with the Chargers, for the past four seasons although he started 11 of the 13 games he played in last season.
The Steelers didn’t have much depth after Miller’s departure. Veteran Matt Spaeth is 32 and has missed games because of injury the past few years. He played only 243 snaps last season. Rookie Jesse James played only 181 though he did become a solid contributor in the second half of the season.
Earlier in the day, the Steelers signed left guard Ramon Foster to a three-year contract hours before he was set to become a free agent. He started every game at left guard last season, his sixth as a starter. It might have been his best performance because he had two new starters on either side of him. Cody Wallace took over for Maurkice Pouncey after the All-Pro center was lost in the preseason with an ankle injury. Then in Week 6, left tackle Kelvin Beachum was lost for the season with a knee injury.
Foster’s signing came one day after the Steelers signed veteran cornerback William Gay to a three-year contract.
The Steelers did allow four other starters to hit the open market Wednesday at 4 p.m., the start of the NFL’s new calendar year.
Beachum is the lone offensive starter to make it to free agency. He is currently rehabbing his knee injury, which could complicate his market this week.
Three defensive starters — nose tackle Steve McLendon, cornerback Antwon Blake and safety Will Allen, will test the open market to discover their worth. Some of them could return to the Steelers if they don’t find new deals elsewhere.
With Foster, the team could have its starting five along the line under contract through 2018 if right guard David DeCastro can come to terms on a long-term deal before next season. DeCastro had his $8 million option year picked up for 2016 and should sign a long-term deal before the season begins.
If the Steelers do not re-sign Beachum, Alejandro Villanueva, who took over for Beachum and played the final 12 games, will remain their starting left tackle. Mike Adams, their second-round draft pick in 2013, would have become an unrestricted free agent Wednesday but because he spent all of last season on the physically unable to perform list, it did not count as a year toward free agency. He thus has one year left under contract. Adams had back surgery last summer and he did not recover as well or as quickly as he and the team had hoped. If healthy, he could become the No. 3 offensive tackle.
In addition to Foster and Gay, the Steelers also signed backups Robert Golden at safety and Darrius Heyward-Bey at wide receiver the past two days.
Besides the five starters and Garvin, other Steelers who became unrestricted free agents are cornerback Brandon Boykin, quarterbacks Bruce Gradkowski and Mike Vick, defensive linemen Cam Thomas and Clifton Geathers, offensive linemen Doug Legursky and Byron Stingily, linebacker Sean Spence and halfback Jordan Todman.
Gerry Dulac contributed. Ed Bouchette: email@example.com and Twitter @EdBouchette. Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rayfitt1.
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