Ramon Foster enters training camp in an interesting spot. He is set to be a free agent in the 2019 offseason. He knows as well as anyone that the team does not negotiate contracts during the season. So, with that in mind, he is either going to be signing an extension and walking into the late part of his career secured with the Steelers. Or, he is walking into 2018 knowing that he is playing for a significant amount of money and potentially a spot in the Pittsburgh Steelers near future plans.
Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Questions: Does Ramon Foster get a contract extension?
Foster is going to be 32 at the start of this season. By the end of it, he could have made over 150 starts for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Foster has always been serviceable and thrived when Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro were installed next to him. However, last season would be described as a dip down from some seasons past, and he did miss two starts.
Foster has missed four starts over the past two seasons, and those snaps have gone to B.J. Finney, a former UDFA from Kansas State. Finney has seven career starts, and given his journey to the roster, has been a capable asset.
The Steelers like to bring late round players along the slow path, and eventually get them to the point of being a cheap starter. It is what they did with Foster, a 2009 UDFA. After two seasons in a reserve role, Foster was thrust into a starting spot and never looked back.
Finney will get a third year on the bench barring Foster’s health but could be thrust into a similar progression. An interesting detail that could help us tell the Steelers intentions will be how they maneuver the contract status of B.J. Finney this offseason.
Finney will be a restricted free agent this offseason. That does mean that he will be easier to retain. However, it does mean that if the Steelers wanted to sign him for the future, they could do it this summer.
This could draw a similar comparison to the summer of 2016. Lawrence Timmons, the seasoned veteran was due to an extension at the same time as former sixth-round pick Vince Williams. The Steelers extended Vince Williams to a three-year extension at team friendly numbers before anything happened with Timmons.
Timmons played out the season, walked in free agency and Vince Williams was boosted into a starter role the next season. Williams signed a three-year, $5 million deal and is entering year two as a starter. Timmons signed a two-year, $12 million deal and is currently unemployed. Could this be how the team treats Foster and Finney?
A potential Foster extension
It would certainly be a similar saving for the Steelers. If all goes well, Finney will enter year four with seven starts. That is not going to get him starter money, even on an open market. However, the Steelers could get starter caliber play.
On the other hand, Ramon Foster has been fair to the Pittsburgh Steelers over the years. He has taken below his market at the position. Back in 2016, Foster signed a team friendly, three-year $9 million deal.
When looking at the current market for him, Josh Sitton is a great starting point. Cut by the Chicago Bears, Sitton will enter the season with 137 career starts. He will enter the year at age 32. He has had some serious ups in his career, but has also met some downs, and is certainly near the tail end of his career.
Stil, he signed a two-year, $13 million deal this offseason with the Miami Dolphins. The market for guards has changed recently, and it is the Dolphins, but still, Foster getting two-years and $10 million on the open market would be expected as a potential starting point.
For the Steelers, that would mean a year to year increase on average annual value for a player who would enter 2019 at age 33. All of that when the team could have Finney starting at a lower cost than Foster currently is making. Is Foster worth that difference?
With all of that said, the Steelers will be more likely to use this season to found out how they feel on Foster before extending him. If a guard were to sign an extension this summer, it would be B.J. Finney. With his RFA tag, if he were extended, it would likely be bad news for Ramon Foster, who could be entering his final year in what turned into one heck of a run.