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Stealing Away Steve McLendon Wouldn't Be Difficult for Packers

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Stealing Away Steve McLendon Wouldn't Be Difficult for Packers

If the Green Bay Packers are serious about signing restricted free agent Steve McLendon away from the Pittsburgh Steelers—and given the current talent and depth on the defensive line, Green Bay should be—general manager Ted Thompson wouldn't have to get too creative to do it.

The Steelers—currently stuck in a tricky salary cap situation—simply don't have the financial flexibility to match even a modest offer from the Packers, and McLendon's original-round tender would not require Thompson to sacrifice a draft choice in the event Pittsburgh decided against matching an accepted offer sheet.

The Steelers risked such a scenario in early March when they gave McLendon the lowest possible tender, valued at just $1.323 million.

Now, the Packers are reportedly giving the idea of stealing McLendon more than just a passing glance.

Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun originally reported that McLendon was in Green Bay Wednesday for an official visit. Earlier this offseason, the Packers kicked the tires on Chris Canty but decided against signing the veteran defensive linemen because of medical reasons.

Restricted free agents are allowed to sign offer sheets through Friday, April 19. 

McLendon, a 27-year-old nose tackle, was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009. Over three seasons and 37 games with the Steelers—mostly as a reverse defensive lineman—McLendon has registered 22 tackles and three sacks.

The Steelers were internally counting on McLendon to take over the starting nose job position for veteran Casey Hampton, a 35-year-old veteran who hasn't been retained this offseason.

The Packers can very easily force alternate plans in Pittsburgh if the interest in McLendon is serious.

According to the NFL Player Association's salary cap numbers, the Steelers have less than $800,00 in total cap space. Included in the current cap calculation is McLendon's $1.323 million restricted tender, but Pittsburgh still lacks the ability for much financial finagling.

Matching Emmanuel Sanders' $2.5 million offer sheet from New England earlier this week sapped nearly all of Pittsburgh's already limited cap space, and it would likely take a restructure of one or two contracts for the Steelers to seriously consider matching even a slight raise on McLendon's current tender.

Pittsburgh is also considering signing veteran running back Ahmad Bradshaw this offseason, a plan which would be further complicated if forced to pay McLendon more money.

If Thompson offered a deal anywhere in the $2 million a year range, the Steelers would be stretched to match.

A 6-4, 325-pound lineman with experience in the 3-4 defense, McLendon makes sense as a player the usually frugal Thompson would be willing to spend money on.

Despite playing only 139 snaps in 2012, McLendon graded out as Pittsburgh's top overall defensive lineman (per Pro Football Focus). He was also given the defensive line's top pass-rushing grade after providing three sacks, two quarterback hits and two pressures over just 73 pass-rushing snaps (this post from Cian Fahey provides picture evidence of McLendon's three sacks).

The Steelers used McLendon primarily on the nose, but his length and quickness suggest he could easily transition to the five-technique defensive end, where the Packers need help. Or, he could stay on the nose and provide the Packers with a potential base front of B.J. Raji, McLendon and Ryan Pickett. Either scenario is preferable to the Packers' current combination of defensive linemen, which is arguably the team's biggest weakness heading into the 2013 NFL draft.

After meeting with McLendon Wednesday, Thompson will now have to decide if spending a small chunk of his dwindling cap space is worth the trouble.

The idea of stealing away a potential starter with experience playing in 3-4 has to be appealing. If the interest in McLendon is indeed serious, Thompson can approach an offer with the comfort in knowing his competition is currently handcuffed financially.

Zach Kruse is a 24-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at zachkruse2@gmail.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (37) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Kris's picture

I think this would be a smart move! Potential starter for the Steelers...would provide some depth and competition for the defensive line!

Evan's picture

Agreed. Seems to make too much sense.

Jay's picture

If this goes through I think he battles Jolly for the last DL spot. I don't think there's room for 9 DL, incl Worthy probably on the PUP. I still like this idea though.

Zach Kruse's picture

If he's signed, I wouldn't expect him to be a bottom of the roster guy. He'd compete for starting snaps immediately.

Drealyn Williams's picture

So,you don't think the Pack will draft at least 2 DL this upcoming draft?

Derek in CO's picture

TT always drafts a D-lineman. Pickett isn't getting any younger.

Evan's picture

Definitely. But this would lessen the need to go for one early.

Beep's picture

Sold. Pull the trigger TT!

THEMichaelRose's picture

It's funny how guys like this fall through the cracks.
I'm always so amused by the pre-FA lists of the top 50 guys available or whatever.
They always feature the high profile names, typically aging guys who are looking for huge deals. As great as they are, on average they don't offer substantial value to a team because by their nature they command so much money.
Guys like McLendon don't make those lists. And he doesn't command much money. But you know he'll offer more bang for your buck, on a shorter and more flexible contract than some other dudes out there.
I love Ted. Let's make this happen.

THEMichaelRose's picture

Aaaaand now I feel dumb. Shoulda known. Felt different for some reason. Probably because it made too much sense.

Still love Ted.

Lou's picture

This sounds so much better than Anthony Hargrove and Danial Muir, two suspect rejects vs a kid that has played well to date and has a nice upside. Based on what they have on the roster now how could they pass this guy up assuming he is fully healthy. Had they signed Canty and he went down early that would have been such a negative move after looking very positive, they did the right thing with him. Cullen Jenkins burned some bridges and was not considered an option exclusively because of that. Sign the kid now Ted.

bryce's picture

DO IT!!

cow42's picture

hard for me to get excited about a guy i've never heard of.

probably a pretty good chance that he's better than...

-daniels
-worthy
-wilson
-jolly
-miller

not gonna worry about it too much... ain't gonna happen.

Joe's picture

Only reason for McLendon being signed is because of Worthy. Jolly is'nt even part of the equation at this point. Packers are doing Jolly a favor by having him in. But honestly can Jolly even be close to the same player he was three years ago. No.

Stroh's picture

Why can't Jolly? Mike Vick ring any bells? He came back and did well after 3 yrs at a position that requires a much higher skill retention than DE. I wouldn't rule him out just yet!

Evan's picture

"But honestly can Jolly even be close to the same player he was three years ago. No."

I think the correct answer is "No one knows and we'll find out."

cow42's picture

no - pretty sure the correct answer is "no".

Derek in CO's picture

I'd offer McClendon a contract and at least force Pitt to match. He'll come cheap either way, and we need proven depth, not unknown depth. Doing this now makes the draft less risky.

aussiepacker's picture

If they sign this guy they can look at other positions in the first 3 rounds of the draft.Unless there is a value Dline player that drops. I think it would be a positive move?

al's picture

hay now im a steeler fan and hoppe you guys dont sing him we need him !

NashvillePacker's picture

It doesn't seem like it would be difficult to structure a contract in such a way that it would be impossible for Pittsburgh to match. Steelers fans seem pissed at the prospect of losing him.

Evan's picture

Dammit. Steelers just signed him to a 3-year deal.

I hate when Cow is right...

cow42's picture

sorry.

Matt's picture

His agent was just using the Packers for leverage just like Jacksons agent and probably Jennings. They know the Packers want every free agent on the cheap which is ok unless you are never able to actually sign one.

KennyPayne's picture

Its funny how Packer fans continue to think TT is serious about restricted/unrestricted veteran free agency. Unless there is a player nobody else in the NFL wants like a Jeff Saturday or a Muir or a Hargrove or a Merling or a Mulligan, there is no way GB is going to sign the guy.

With respect to veteran free agents, Green Bay is just a place players who have options (and their agents) feign interest in so that they can get a better deal from another team.

Evan's picture

Those two paragraphs strike me as mutually exclusive. If Ted only signs guys who no one else wants for super cheap deals, then how do players with other options use him as leverage.

If a player wanted to use a team as leverage, a team that never signs free agents would seem like a poor choice.

Matt's picture

Well for some reason it sure works against G.B. when it comes to signing someone.

KennyPayne's picture

There is a sucker born every minute and to the extent Atlanta, Baltimore, and Pitt thought that GB was seriously in the running for free agents Stephen Jackson, Chris Canty, Michael Huff, and Steve McClendon, respectively, they got played if they upped their offers.

As his supporters and detractors well know, TT sets a price for free agents on a take-it-or-leave-it basis and does not get into bidding wars.

For that reason, wisely or unwisely, TT generally waits to scoop up the leftovers, if any, from free agency.

Drealyn Williams's picture

Well said,Kenny.

Morgan Mundane's picture

They got played and so did the Packers thinking these guys would take low paying jobs.

cow42's picture

kinda weird that i'm a little disappointed that the Packers didn't sign a guy that i had never heard of before this morning.

dude - i need the draft sooooooo bad.

so sick of made-up Packer news.

-who will they sign?
-will they sign anyone?
-who will they keep?
-who will they let go?
-when will the mega deal get signed?
-who will they draft?
-who fits their needs?
-which college player that no one's ever actually watched play is best?

It's all just speculative gobbley-gook.
Makes me wish i wasn't so bored by the NBA and MLB.
Thanks a lot Bucks and Brewers for turning me into a one sport/one team fan.

Evan's picture

"kinda weird that i’m a little disappointed that the Packers didn’t sign a guy that i had never heard of before this morning."

Ha. Seriously.

Morgan Mundane's picture

Ya that was a quick no thanks Packers.

Lars's picture

The Packers never had any intention of stealing this player away. Just another Lucy and charlie brown moment with the football to make the fans think they are pursuing FA's. If they really wanted this guy,he would have seen an offer sheet. Thompson hates FA'cy and will do anything to avoid participating. Only did lat year with Saturday because the Packer were so thin on the interior line. That's what happens when you only add players on draft days.

Mojo's picture

I have a feeling the Packers were genuinely interested in signing McLendon as well as Steven Jackson, Jennings and Huff. They couldn't get into any kind of a bidding war because of the CM3 contract and the anticipated ARod contract. In other words, unlike past years, I believe TT would have been a FA player this year if given the chance. Which leads me to ask; does anyone know where the reconfigured Packer salary cap stands after the CM3 signing? It might go a long way in explaining why signing McLendon was more difficult than Zach first thought.

The Delivery Guy's picture

I read CM3's cap number jumps up about 2 mil to 6.7 this year... last I heard we were 17 mil-ish under the cap.

Likely McClendon was a kick the tires to consider after seeing how the draft fell, Steelers panicked and paid the man.

Fish/Crane's picture

on the flip side Packers get a lot of quality UFA's so maybe it's a some payback from and to agents to help with leverage of their old timers

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