Steelers identify free-agent priorities
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The Steelers have identified three players as their priorities to sign before they become free agents March 5, but they will not begin negotiations with them for at least another week.
Kevin Colbert, the team's director of football operations, identified them as kicker Jeff Reed, nose tackle Casey Hampton and free safety Ryan Clark. All three will become unrestricted free agents if they do not sign a new contract by March 5.
Colbert said they could use the franchise and transition tags available to them in order to keep them. Each team has one of each this year but must use them on a player between now and Feb. 25. That would leave less than a week between the time the team begins negotiations with the three players on new contracts and when the team must decide whether to issue them a franchise or transition tag.
Each tag requires a one-year salary tender to the player and maintains certain rights of the team to that player once free agency begins. The franchise tag virtually assures the team will be able to keep a player for the next season. The transition tag merely allows a team to match any contract that player might sign as a free agent.
Colbert said other impending unrestricted free agents such as running back Willie Parker and cornerback Deshea Townsend will not receive contract offers before free agency begins but as the process moves along, they could be offered contracts later if they do not sign elsewhere.
"We haven't ruled anybody out," Colbert said of their free agents coming back.
Colbert said while it appears there will be no salary cap in 2010, the Steelers "will operate as we always have. We will operate as if we have a cap."
First Published February 12, 2010 1:49 pm