According to the Post-Gazette (I think John Clayton broke the story), the Steelers have placed the franchise tag on Max Starks.
The Steelers have placed the franchise tag on offensive tackle Max Starks, a move that will keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent and guarantee
him $8.451 million in salary -- the average of the NFL's top five offensive linemen -- in the 2009 season.
The Steelers will try to work out a long-term deal with Starks, a No. 3 draft choice in 2004 who started 11 games last season at left tackle.
The franchise tag placed on Starks was non-exclusive, meaning he is allowed to talk with other NFL teams about a contract. However, if he would sign with another team, that team would have to compensate the Steelers with two No. 1 picks.
It is the second year in a row the Steelers have used a tag to keep Starks from becoming an unrestricted free agent. He was named a transition player last season, even though he wasn't a starter, and was paid $6.9
Translation: Max Starks is a very rich man. I don't think this will be a popular move with the Steelers faithful. Starks isn't anywhere near the top 5 at his position, but the Steelers must have been desperate to ensure the team has a left tackle in place for next season.
Here is the immediate reaction e-mail chain between Elliot (SteezBro 1), Josh (SteezBro 2), Alex (SteezBro 3), and the Scerb (friend of SteezBros).
Elliot: Steelers franchised Max to the tune of $8.45 million if I remember correctly. They are trying to negotiate a long term deal. Thoughts?
Josh: This is a guy that couldn't even start over Willie Colon. Definitely not worth $8.45 million. Hopefully he signs a long term deal worth less $$$, but this gives him an incentive to hold out for a big contract. If he doesn't get a deal he likes, he can play next year for $8 million. Stupid. He'll be the second highest paid player on the team over 2008-2009 and make enough to retire ($15 million in two years). I just don't understand it. I'd rather sign Marvel Smith and have Trai Essex as a back up than spend $9 million on Starks. Good thing we won the super bowl and there is a moratorium on complaining. We could probably sign Jordan Gross for $9 million per.
Scerb: Wow. Two years in a row. Can't seem to rationalize any other way to keep him around. Rather would have seen them do this with BMac though. Perhaps they have something else in mind... It's not like they just started into this business or something.
Josh: Yeah, much rather have BMac and Nate. Save some cap room to re-sign Deebo, Heath, Clark, and Hines. Draft a Left Tackle this year or pray like hell Essex and Tony Hills can develop. Kevin Colbert is the man, but he's made some mistakes on the O-line recently. Kendall Simmons big contract comes to mind.
Elliot: I don't understand the need to franchise him. Do the Steelers really think there is going to be a bunch of suitors for him? He did play well this year at LT. I just think they should not have acted so quickly and tried to work out a long term deal with him. If we can't sign him we should be able to get Marvel back at much less and maybe draft someone for emergencies. 8.45 million eats up about 45% of our cap space for next year I think. He is guaranteed the 8.45 for next year even if they sign him to a long term deal.
Alex: Marvel is not reliable anymore. When he plays yes he is better than Starks but he has had some extreme back issues the past two years and Starks is the best tackle on the team and with no one on the team (Essex and Hills are no where near ready) to protect Bung's blindside this is probably the rationale of tagging him. I don't agree with it because now we are gonna be handcuffed with Deebo and McFeezy and Nate too let alone as all the other marquee players with one year remaining on their contracts. I dont understand doing this to Starks two years in row.