Steelers let Clark become a free agent
Share with others:
Ryan Clark's desire to remain with the Steelers made no difference as he failed to come to a contract agreement and became free to sign elsewhere today.
Clark, the team's starting free safety the past four years, likely will move on and sign with another team, just as he did when he joined the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent from the Washington Redskins in 2006.
It's becoming a tradition with the position. The Steelers signed Clark four years ago after they lost their own starting free safety, Chris Hope, to the Tennessee Titans as a free agent. Now, they either will try to sign another to replace Clark, draft one or turn inward to someone such as Ryan Mundy.
The other half of the equation also starts today: The Steelers can start negotiating with other teams' free agents to try to fill holes and add depth to their roster. Since this is an uncapped year for salaries in the NFL, teams are free to spend as much or as little as they want. Steelers president Art Rooney II said the team will stay within a budget as if there were a salary cap.
Traditionally, the Steelers do not move quickly in free agency and when they do, they usually do not sign those among the top-tiered free agents. They signed virtually no one last season but did find halfback Mewelde Moore and special teams captain and linebacker Keyaron Fox in 2008, along with starting center Justin Hartwig, who had been released by the Carolina Panthers.
The Steelers' most notable acquisition in free agency on the team is linebacker and defensive captain James Farrior, signed from the New York Jets in 2002.
Joel Turner, Clark's agent, said Thursday he would have no comment after he and the team never came close in contract negotiations. Clark was one of three players identified by football operations director Kevin Colbert as a priority to sign before free agency. The team locked up the other two by signing nose tackle Casey Hampton to a three-year contract and making kicker Jeff Reed the franchise player.
Early this week, Clark said, "I want to be here, my family likes it here," but he added that he was getting no "love" from the Steelers, such as Hampton and others who signed within the past year have received.
Clark was the only other player involved in negotiations with the team before free agency, so all of the Steelers' other prospective free agents will become unrestricted at midnight: Halfback Willie Parker, cornerback Deshea Townsend, quarterback Charlie Batch, linebacker Rocky Boiman, safety Tyrone Carter, defensive ends Nick Eason and Travis Kirschke, wide receiver Joey Galloway and two potential restricted free agents who did not receive tenders from the team, guard Darnell Stapleton and halfback Carey Davis.
The Steelers' four restricted free agents also can begin negotiations with other teams today, although the Steelers maintain some rights to them and can match any offer. The four are tackle Willie Colon, cornerback William Gay, tight end Matt Spaeth and punter Daniel Sepulveda.
There is a chance half of the team's starting secondary and three of their front five could leave as free agents: Clark, Townsend and Gay. While the Steelers issued Gay a tender, another team can sign him and give up only a fifth-round draft pick if the Steelers decline to match.
First Published March 5, 2010 12:00 am