Given that it ranked second in adjusted line yards and third in adjusted sack rate, the Steelers’ offensive line finished the 2016 season as one of the league’s best units, and the club now wants to extend a key member of that front five. Pittsburgh is interested in hammering out an long-term deal with left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, reports Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Villanueva, is an exclusive right free agent, meaning he’s not able sign with any other clubs as long as the Steelers tender him an offer. Pittsburgh has been the most active thus far in the offseason in terms of re-signing its exclusive rights free agents, and the team clearly wouldn’t complain about retaining Villanueva at a one-year cost of $540K. Even after the 2017 campaign, Villanueva would only qualify as a restricted free agent, again meaning the Steelers could keep him around on the cheap.
A long-term deal, however, would not only lock up Villanueva for the foreseeable future, but reward the second-year pro for his excellent production. A former Army infantrymen, Villanueva graded as the league’s No. 24 offensive tackle in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus, and has now started 26 games in two seasons with the Steelers.
As Bouchette notes, the top-10 highest-paid tackles in the league earn more than $10MM annually, but a few factors should keep Villanueva from reaching that plateau. Not only is he not quite at the elite level that would require such a salary, but he’s under team control for the next two seasons, a fact that will artificially depress his value.
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