Ramon Foster

Steelers’ Ramon Foster Retires

On a day with a seemingly endless stream of players finding new homes, one player has elected to step away from the game on his own. Steelers guard Ramon Foster is retiring from the NFL, he announced in a release on the team’s website.

When the time comes, you just know and now is the time for me to take a bow,” Foster in a statement. “I’ve made some friends for a lifetime, had some moments that I’ll never forget, and seen some things I never thought I would because of this game. First and foremost, I would like to thank my wife and sons. I also want to thank the Steelers organization – Coach (Mike) Tomlin, Mr. Art Rooney II, the late Ambassador (Dan) Rooney, and Kevin Colbert for making Pittsburgh feel like a family. There are so many more people I need to thank, including everyone on staff with the Steelers. I would also like to thank my teammates who made this journey something very special to me and my family – you guys were amazing.”

Last but definitely not least, thank you to the best fans in all of sports. I’m glad to say I was a Steeler for life, and there is no other organization I would have rather played for in my career,” he finished. Foster signed with Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent all the way back in 2009, and never left. He made the team as a rookie, and it wasn’t long before he became a full-time starter.

He was an incredibly reliable presence on the interior of Pittsburgh’s offensive line, starting at least 14 games in each of the past nine seasons. Foster signed a two-year extension worth $8.25MM last offseason, but elected to hang up his cleats a year early. The Tennessee product turned 34 in January. It’s yet another reminder that the old era of Steelers football we’ve been accustomed to is slowly coming to an end. Ben Roethlisberger is insistent he’s going to come back from his elbow injury and play at least a couple of more years, but things are starting to change around him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers, Ramon Foster Agree To Extension

It’s a busy day in Pittsburgh. After reaching an extension with Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers agreed to a new two-year, $8.25MM deal with Ramon Foster, as Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Before the deal, Foster was set to become an unrestricted free agent on March 13. 

[RELATED: Steelers, Maurkice Pouncey Agree To Extension]

Ben Roethlisberger‘s front line is now well set for the next couple of years. Foster, who earned $3.591MM last season, is now inked through his age-35 campaign.

Foster has been largely healthy throughout his Steelers career and ranked as Pro Football Focus’ No. 16 ranked guard in the NFL last season. His pass blocking, in particular, was exceptional. Foster’s 84.5 pass blocking score was good for seventh amongst all qualified guards, per PFF, slotting him ahead of big names like Brandon Scherff, Quenton Nelson, and Andrew Norwell.

Meanwhile, tomorrow figures to be even busier for the Steelers. The club intends to trade star wide receiver Antonio Brown by the end of the week and they’re reportedly pushing for a first-round pick in return.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Foster, Joseph, Mack

Good news for Steelers fans. Left guard Ramon Foster, who was carted off the practice field yesterday, hyperextended his knee but did not suffer any ligament damage and will not require surgery, as Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network reports (via Twitter). Kinkhabwala adds that Foster will miss four to five weeks but is expected to be ready for Week 1.

Now let’s get to more notes from around the AFC:

  • Browns owner Jimmy Haslam expressed unwavering support of head coach Hue Jackson during Haslam’s traditional training camp address yesterday. Per Tony Grossi of ESPN 850 WKNR, Haslam said, “I think we will see the real Hue Jackson (this year). He has good quarterbacks, he has some skill players, he has veteran offensive line – now, we have to figure out left tackle – and three really good backs and a good defense. I think this will be the first opportunity Hue will have to do what we know he can do as head coach and as a leader. We are excited to see it.” That certainly sounds to some, like Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, that Jackson is getting a clean slate, which is quite surprising for a head coach who has compiled a 1-31 record over his two seasons with the club. But Grossi suggests that the Haslams could also be subtly putting Jackson on notice that he is out of excuses.
  • Johnathan Joseph, who signed a two-year, $10MM deal to remain with the Texans this offseason, does not plan on calling it quits anytime soon, as Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes. The 34-year-old Joseph is entering the 13th year of his career, but he remains a starting cornerback and stills loves the game and the camaraderie it engenders. Joseph said, “as long as I’m healthy and I’m fine, I’m going to go out there and compete and contribute to the team. I’ll never play this game just to be playing and out there taking checks and stuff like that. So, if I’m able to be out there playing winning football, I’ll always play.”
  • We learned several days ago that Raiders star defensive end Khalil Mack, who is staying away from the team in an effort to land a new contract, has not spoken with head coach Jon Gruden since Gruden was hired in January. That report sent some of Raiders Nation into panic mode, but as Jerry McDonald of the Mercury News opines, there is no cause for alarm. He says Gruden is right to stay out of the negotiations, which is the domain of GM Reggie McKenzie and ownership, and that there should be no issues between Mack and Gruden when the contract situation does get resolved. McKenzie, meanwhile had no updates to offer on the negotiations.
  • In other Raiders news, Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com reports that rookie Kolton Miller will be given every chance to win the starting LT job from Donald Penn, who is currently on the PUP list.
  • Embattled Bills DE Shaq Lawson could be on his way out of Buffalo, but DC Leslie Frazier isn’t casting him aside just yet. Frazier said Lawson’s best football is ahead of him, and that he is much too young to say that 2018 is a make-or-break year (via Joe Buscaglia of WKBW on Twitter). However, as Mike Rodak of ESPN.com tweets, Frazier also refers to Trent Murphy as the team’s starting left end, which is further evidence that Lawson has ground to make up if he wants to remain a Bill.

AFC North Rumors: Gordon, Steelers, Ravens

Josh Gordon‘s present designation with the Browns is on the reserve/did not report list. The Browns likely could not have placed the 27-year-old pass-catcher on the non-football illness list, since he would have had to fail a physical for that to occur. While Gordon does not currently count toward Cleveland’s 90-man roster, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk cautions the wideout’s road back to the team may not be a matter of him merely returning to Berea, Ohio. Gordon may have to have Roger Goodell approve his request for Browns reinstatement, Florio reports. The reasoning behind this is Goodell OK’d a Gordon return last year under the terms of a treatment plan, with Florio adding that possible Goodell approval would center around whether or not the embattled receiver has violated the terms of that plan. Gordon’s believed to be at a Gainesville, Fla., treatment facility. He spent 90 days in a Gainesville rehab center last fall. While Florio doesn’t expect Goodell to stand in the way of a Gordon return, he would have the right to suspend Gordon for another year under the substance-abuse policy.

Jimmy Haslam did not comment when asked Saturday if the NFL needed to approve Gordon’s Browns reinstatement, and Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes the league has not provided clarity on this situation yet. Haslam added he does not have a timetable for Gordon’s return.

Here’s the latest from the AFC North, shifting to a potentially troublesome situation in Pittsburgh:

  • Ramon Foster has played more Steelers snaps than anyone since the 2009 season (h/t Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com), but he was carted off the practice field Saturday. During a full-contact workout, Stephon Tuitt rolled into Foster’s right leg, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (Twitter links). Mike Tomlin did not elaborate on the issue, only saying that the 10th-year guard is being evaluated for a “lower-body” injury, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora (via Twitter). A Foster loss would represent a major setback for the Steelers. Foster’s a seven-season full-time starter and is in the final year of his deal. Ben Roethlisberger consoled the 32-year-old guard as he was carted away.
  • Roethlisberger has shown up to camp in noticeably better shape, with La Canfora noting the Steelers expected their quarterback to show up prepared to earn one final blockbuster extension. Although a report surfaced about the Steelers and Roethlisberger were planning to discuss a re-up this offseason, the 15th-year quarterback said he didn’t want to do a deal before this season. But he’ll be set for a contract year in 2019.
  • While the Steelers do, however, have a Chris Boswell extension slotted as a preseason priority, JLC adds the team shouldn’t be expected to make a Joe Haden-style addition before the season. Pittsburgh added the longtime Cleveland cornerback on a $9MM-per-year deal late last summer but holds barely $5MM in cap space presently. Boswell is entering a contract year.
  • Greg Robinson resides in the Browns‘ concussion protocol, Hue Jackson said Saturday (via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, on Twitter). The Browns brought the former No. 2 overall pick this offseason. He has a clearer path to the 53-man roster now that Donald Stephenson has retired, but Robinson has not proven reliable during his four-year career.
  • Only Ronnie Stanley and Marshal Yanda are locks to be Ravens offensive line starters, with Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic noting (subscription required) the team used numerous O-line combinations Saturday. Expected to vie for Baltimore’s right tackle job, James Hurst is working primarily at right guard while Alex Lewis — whom Zreibec projects as the left guard starter — has worked plenty at center. The Ravens’ right guard starter, Yanda remains on the PUP list. Zreibec still contends Hurst will settle at right tackle, with rookie Orlando Brown in the mix at that spot as well.

Sunday Roundup: Lynch, Fitzpatrick, Leary

Whether Marshawn Lynch opts to continue his football career in 2016 and whether he will play for the Seahawks if he does suit up this season are two very different questions, as Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com writes. Lynch, 30, may well be having second thoughts about his decision to retire, but while Kapadia would not be surprised if Lynch chooses to return to the league, the ESPN scribe would be stunned if the Seahawks are the team to welcome him back.

Although Seattle controls Lynch’s rights through 2017, he is due $9MM in 2016, is coming off an injury-plagued season, and is at the point in his career when most running backs begin to wear down anyway. Plus, the club’s running game looked perfectly capable without Beast Mode in 2015. Theoretically, the team could trade him or negotiate a pay cut, but it is more likely that the Seahawks would simply release Lynch if he ultimately decides he is not done playing.

Now let’s take a look at some more notes from around the league:

  • Rich Cimini of ESPN.com and Brian Costello of The New York Post echo the common sense point that Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk made several days ago: we now know that the Jets have offered Ryan Fitzpatrick a three-year deal that includes $12MM in the first year, but until we know what the second and third years of the offer look like, we cannot say which side is being overly obstinate. Cimini “gets the sense” that it is a three-year, $24MM contract, which would mean that if Fitzpatrick plays well this season and retains his starting job, he would be significantly underpaid in 2017. Similarly, Costello believes that it is not a three-year, $36MM deal unless Fitzpatrick hits incentives, some of which are surely unrealistic.
  • Cowboys left guard Ronald Leary has made it abundantly clear that he wants to be traded, but as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, Leary lost almost all of his leverage when he chose to sign his restricted free agent tender last month. Now that he has signed the $2.55MM tender, Leary can be fined if he misses mandatory minicamp or training camp, so Dallas will be perfectly content to either wait for a good return from another club seeking an interior lineman, or for Leary to give in and report to the team.
  • Former Baylor wideout Jay Lee, overshadowed by teammate Corey Coleman–the Browns’ first-round selection in this year’s draft–in the Baylor offense, had a productive collegiate career in his own right, and he turned down offers from five other clubs to join the Lions as a UDFA, as Justin Rogers of MLive.com writes. Lee said, “[Detroit] is a better fit for me. I had a relationship with the coaches. I got to do a private workout with them, got to come up here and visit and I just felt at home.”
  • Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com looks at five of the Lions‘ biggest roster competitions this summer. The competition at defensive tackle, the club’s deepest unit, could be particularly fierce.
  • Instead of hitting the open market this offseason, Steelers guard Ramon Foster and cornerback William Gay turned down the chance at a bigger payday elsewhere to remain in Pittsburgh, as Ray Fittipaldo of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. Gay, who signed a two-year, $3.2MM contract with the Cardinals in 2012 after spending the first five years of his career with the Steelers, never saw the second year of that deal after Arizona’s coaching staff told him he no longer fit in their plans, and he had no interest in seeing the dark side of free agency again. Foster, meanwhile, said, “[Pittsburgh] is where it’s at. We’re chasing that ring. The chance for the Super Bowl ring is more important than those extra [millions].”
  • Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta has looked good in the team’s offseason workouts, Don Markus of The Baltimore Sun writes. Pitta, looking to make his way back from a second major hip fracture, is not showing any lingering effects of his injuries, although training camp will present an entirely different test. Pitta could face an uphill battle to make the roster, as the team recently signed veteran free agent Ben Watson and also has intriguing young talents in Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams on the tight end depth chart.
  • In an Insider-only piece, Field Yates of ESPN.com lists the biggest roster decisions that each of the league’s 32 clubs will have to make over the coming months.

Steelers Re-Sign Ramon Foster

8:49pm: Foster’s three-year deal is worth a modest $9.6MM, according to Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com, who tweets that the guarantee is only $2.75MM.

WEDNESDAY, 7:33am: Foster has signed a new three-year contract to remain with the Steelers, tweets Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

TUESDAY, 8:33pm: Foster will in fact be re-signing with the Steelers, according to Rand Getlin of NFL.com (Twitter link).

7:27pm: The Steelers are finalizing a new contract with guard Ramon Foster, reports Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). Foster was set to become an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday.Ramon Foster

[RELATED: PFR previews the Steelers’ offseason]

Foster has been a mainstay along Pittsburgh’s offensive line during the past five years, averaging 15 starts per season during that time. The 30-year-old Foster is not only durable, but productive, as he graded as the league’s No. 16 guard last season, per Pro Football Focus. Per La Canfora, retaining Foster was a “priority” for the Steelers, who have been quietly negotiating a new contract.

Foster isn’t the only key free agent along the Steelers’ front five, as left tackle Kelvin Beachum is also set to hit the open market tomorrow. Beachum, who is recovering from an ACL tear, could still find a long list of suitors despite having recently suffered a serious injury.

Pittsburgh isn’t usually active in free agency, but if Foster is in fact retained, he’ll mark the fourth Steeler to re-sign in the past two days. He’d join safeties William Gay (link) and Robert Golden (link), and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (link).

For his part, Foster was listed among the honorable mentions in PFR’s Top 50 Free Agents list.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

FA Rumors: Broncos QBs, Snacks, 49ers, Hali, Mebane

A look at the latest rumors as we draw closer to free agency:

  • The quarterback-needy Texans are likely to go after Brock Osweiler if he doesn’t re-sign with the Broncos, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora (Twitter link).
  • If Peyton Manning – whom Osweiler has backed up since entering the NFL in 2012 – returns for his age-40 season and the Broncos release him, the Texans and Rams could pursue the future Hall of Famer, writes Alex Marvez of FOX Sports. Should Manning elect against retirement, Denver is expected to cut the two-time Super Bowl champion by March 8 and save $19MM on its cap. A good portion of that money would go to linebacker Von Miller, who is looking for a deal similar to what Miami gave defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh last winter (six years, $114MM, with $60MM in guarantees), reports Marvez.
  • It’ll take a “major reversal” for Jets defensive tackle Damon Harrison to not reach the open market, according to La Canfora (Twitter link). “Snacks” stated earlier this month that he and the Jets were making progress toward a deal, but that no longer appears to be the case. The 27-year-old was Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked interior defender against the run last season (subscription required).
  • Passing along what he heard at the scouting combine, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee lists several prospective free agents the 49ers are thought to be targeting. Guards Kelechi Osemele, Brandon Brooks, J.R. Sweezy, Richie Incognito and Ramon Foster; receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu; cornerbacks Sean Smith, Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins; and running back Doug Martin could all be on the club’s radar.
  • The Chiefs are working hard to retain linebacker Tamba Hali, whom they’ll meet with later this week, reports La Canfora (Twitter link). Hali has so far spent his entire career in Kansas City, which used a first-round pick on him in 2006. The 32-year-old has piled up 86 sacks (6.5 last season) while missing just four regular-season games in his decade-long career.
  • Speaking of players whose careers have been spent in one place, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane hopes to extend his nine-year tenure with the Seahawks. “I’d love to be back out there in Seattle, finish my career in Seattle,” the 2007 third-rounder told 710 ESPN. However, Mebane added that he’ll probably visit other teams. Mebane’s status is one of many issues PFR addressed in its offseason preview of the Seahawks on Sunday. Click here to read it.

AFC Notes: Miller, Ware, Chargers, Steelers

Here’s the latest from around the AFC.

  • The Broncos are heading toward placing the franchise tag on Von Miller, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports (on Twitter). Although the sides began exchanging proposals at the Combine, the Broncos only have until Tuesday to determine if Miller will receive the tag he’d been expecting essentially since Denver re-signed Demaryius Thomas last summer. With the league’s potential highest-paid defender probably set for the tag, Malik Jackson‘s future in Denver becomes cloudier after a report surfaced of his latest demands. Miller’s tag would cost the Broncos $14.12MM.
  • Denver’s also started restructure talks with DeMarcus Ware and Ryan Clady, Mike Klis of 9News reports. Each is slated to take up than $11MM of the Broncos’ 2016 cap. Clady, the longest-tenured Broncos cog and their left tackle starter since 2008, previously agreed to discuss restructuring his deal. Going into the third and final season of his $30MM deal, the 33-year-old Ware had not. Although he missed five games last season with a bulging disc, Ware re-emerged as a dominant presence in the playoffs, which could potentially complicate this abrupt renegotiation. The 29-year-old Clady’s deal runs through 2017. He’s missed both Super Bowls and 30 regular-season games in 2013 and ’15, and although Clady suited up for all of 2014, his play dipped a bit from the previous All-Pro level.
  • The Chargers are not locked into their No. 3 selection and will listen to offers to trade down, Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. With needs across the roster and teams potentially clamoring about moving up to take a quarterback, trading down could make sense for the Chargers. They haven’t had the opportunity to select a player in the top five since ending up with Philip Rivers in 2004, however, both times San Diego’s held a top-five selection in the 21st century, 2001 and 2004, it traded the pick.
  • The Steelers losing both Kelvin Beachum and Ramon Foster in free agency is an unlikely scenario, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com tweets. Continuity-heavy Pittsburgh’s working to retain at least one of its offensive line’s starting left side, La Canfora reports.

AFC Notes: Steelers, A.J. Green, Patriots

We’re only about 30 hours away from the 2015 NFL regular season getting underway, as the Patriots and Steelers, two AFC teams with plenty of Super Bowl wins under their belts, get set to kick off Thursday night’s action. While we look forward to that game, let’s round up a few items of note from around the AFC….

  • Given the Steelers‘ long-standing policy of not negotiating contract extension during the season, the team is running out of time to lock up tackle Kelvin Beachum and guard Ramon Foster, says Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
  • The clock is also ticking on A.J. Green and the Bengals, as Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes. The Bengals are typically averse to doing deals with huge guarantees, and most of the top receiving contracts from this offseason have featured plenty of guaranteed money, so it’s possible Green will play out the 2015 season and get the franchise tag in 2016.
  • The Patriots have sent an application to the NFL to reinstate the two employees that were suspended as a result of the Deflategate investigation, according to an Associated Press report. With Tom Brady‘s suspension lifted, we’ll see if the league follows suit for John Jastremski and Jim McNally, who referred to himself as “the deflator” in text messages.
  • The two-year cash flow on Nate Solder‘s new extension with the Patriots mimics the pay structure of other recent contracts signed by offensive tackles, writes Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap. Of course, Solder’s extension is only for two years rather than the four or five years that most players sign for. As Fitzgerald observes, the new deal also means that Solder will be eligible for free agency at the same time as Brady.