In a move that took Steelers Nation by surprise, the Steelers announced today that they have resigned James Farrior to a five year extension worth 18.25 million dollars. Farrior had been set to become a free agent at the end of this season, but repeatedly stated his desire to remain with the team.
Drafted as an outside linebacker by Bill Parcells and the New York Jets in 1997, James Farrior signed with the Steelers in 2002 and has been a mainstay of their defense since. He’s led the team in tackles in four out of five seasons and has compiled over ten sacks in the last two season, posting 6.5 just last year.
Farrior’s signing represents a bold and clear signal that Kevin Colbert and Mike Tolmin are very self-assured in the course they are charting for the Steelers future.
The Steelers linebacking corps is one of the team’s strengths. James Harrison emerged as Pro Bowl talent in 2007, Larry Foote provides solid play at the other inside linebacker slot, and the development of Lamarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons holds tremendous promise.
This move is so bold because the Steelers have four offensive lineman who are in the final year of their contract. The offensive line is not a team strength, nor do they have much in the way of up and coming talent on the offensive line.
Farrior’s value to the team is manifest, and his dedication to conditioning and preparation is second to none. But age 33, the easy money would have had been down on Farrior becoming expendable given that Timmons is coming along so nicely, thus allowing the team to focus on resigning their offensive lineman.
Since the advent of free agency the Steelers have identified the players they feel they need to win and made concerted efforts to resign these players before they reach the open market. They have also strongly prefered to invest long-term money in players who they feel are dedicated to the team.
By signing Farrior, the Steelers make it clear: They regard him as a championship-caliber player who is essential to winning and they are committed to keeping him.
This move continues the trend established during the 2008 NFL draft. Mike Tomlin went on record after the playoff loss to the Jaguars saying that the offensive and defensive lines were priorities. Yet, he and Kevin Colbert steadfastly insisted that they were going to draft the best available athletes. Steel Curtain Rising wrote that off as attempted misdirection, but we were forced to eat our words. As the 2008 draft unfolded, lineman came off the board in droves, yet Tomlin and Colbert stuck to their guns.
Locking James Farrior up is the right thing to do. Signing a player at his age is always a calculated risk, but Farrior has been healthy throughout his career.
Farrior’s signing also dispels the argument voiced by Ed Bouchette that the Steelers are too preoccupied with the ownership restructuring to focus on extending contracts.
To that end, Steelers Nation should hope that the remainder of the off season brings further contract extension surprises with an eye toward protecting Ben Roethlisberger