Taking his time (cont.)
Posted: Friday March 2, 2007 4:15PM; Updated: Friday March 2, 2007 5:18PM
Porter was scheduled to receive $4 million in salary this season in Pittsburgh, and was due a $1 million roster bonus in early March. While there was real debate internally within the Steelers front office regarding whether the team should part ways with Porter, it was decided that Pittsburgh did not want to take the risk of giving the 29-year-old another long-term deal with a potential eight-figure bonus.
Sources say Steelers decision makers had the contract situation of ex-Pittsburgh linebacker Jason Gildon in mind when they made the call on Porter. In 2002, the Steelers gave Gildon, their career sack leader, a five-year, $23 million contract, then released him two years into the deal in a cap move. The idea of re-signing Porter to such a significant contract at a similar point in his career scared some in Pittsburgh's front office.
Last year, Porter asked the Steelers to re-visit his contract situation, but the club rebuffed him, citing its longstanding policy against extending contracts that have more than one year remaining on them. Faced with having Porter enter the final year of his deal in 2007, and aware that former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher had assured him that his contract situation would be addressed this year, the Steelers felt Porter deserved a chance to reach the free-agent market now.
While some scouts within the league have questioned whether Porter has lost some of the explosiveness that made him one of the league's most dangerous pass rushers throughout this decade, others contend that he remains a premier play-maker whose skills are not in any noticeable decline. Porter had a team-best seven sacks and two interceptions in just 14 games for Pittsburgh last season, a year after tying his career-high with 10½ sacks in the Steelers' Super Bowl season of 2005.
Said one league observer: "He's a vocal guy and sometimes controversial, but no one has ever denied that he comes to play every week. Him not being in Pittsburgh any more was not about him not being to play any more.''
In other free agency news, Vikings linebacker Napoleon Harris made a visit to Tampa Bay on Friday, and has received interest in having visits with Buffalo, Kansas City and Atlanta.
Dallas and former Cardinals offensive tackle Leonard Davis are deep into negotiations, league sources said Friday. Talks have hit a snag on Davis' request for a $12 million signing bonus and a deal that averages $5 million per season. Davis is Dallas' first choice to replace offensive tackle Marc Colombo, who was allowed to test the free-agent market this week.
The Bucs and former Giants offensive tackle Luke Petitgout are negotiating Friday, but are not believed to be close to a deal at this point. Tampa Bay is balking at some of Petitgout's contract demands, a source said.
Former Atlanta defensive end Patrick Kerney started his free-agent tour in Denver on Friday, but is leaving the Broncos' offices without a deal in place. Kerney is headed for Seattle tonight, where he is scheduled to have dinner with Seahawks officials.