Keep or Cut: Mark Barron

Sports Illustrated

By CJ Lester

The Pittsburgh Steelers made a few “nothing to write home about” type splashes last off-season during the free agency period. Three headline additions to the roster during free agency were WR Donte Moncrief, CB Steven Nelson, and LB Mark Barron. Moncrief was cut in the middle of season due to struggles catching passes thrown his way. Steven Nelson was a breakout star, starring in the cornerback role opposite Joe Haden. Nelson looked like a top talent at the position and was a tremendous addition during free agency. Last but certainly not least is the unremarkable play of Mark Barron.

Barron was brought in to be the guy to play inside linebacker on passing downs specifically. His skill set is tailored to be a coverage linebacker and he was brought in to help reduce the advantage opponents had over the Steelers when targeting linebackers in coverage. However, that plan did not go so well. Barron didn’t have a bad season by any means, but he did not play up to expectations, and even more importantly for this discussion, his yearly salary. Last off-season, the former Los Angeles Rams safety/linebacker signed a 2-year, $12 million deal with the Steelers. Looking at the tape, there were many times I witnessed Barron jogging on plays or getting beaten in coverage. He had the “green dot” during several games, as the defensive player who calls the plays normally does. Struggling with communication on passing plays is not something you would want to see from the player who is calling the plays. Barron finished the year with 82 total tackles, 3 sacks, and an interception. His cap number for the upcoming year is $8,125,000 and if the Steelers would take on the dead money by cutting Barron, it would be $2,875,000. For all of the math experts out there, that means the Steelers would gain $5,250,000 in cap space by ripping up his contract.

If Barron does in fact become a cap casualty because his play did not match the contract he is currently under, that would create a hole at the inside linebacker position opposite LB Devin Bush. Of course, all fans would love to see LB Vince Williams slide back in as a full-time starter, but there are cons to that as well. Williams tends to struggle in pass coverage and opposing teams notice that and take advantage of it. If Barron gets cut, the Steelers would need to look into a possible replacement maybe outside of the organization in free agency or the NFL Draft. Someone like LB Nick Vigil, who is excellent in coverage, but struggles being a traditional inside linebacker by not tackling well, would still be an excellent addition. Vigil and Williams could split time opposite Bush. Vigil, only being 26, may be more coveted than people realize. Strong interest could make the price tag of the free agent to go up, but the Steelers should be able to sign him to a deal similar to the yearly salary owed to Barron this year. If the Steelers are not able to upgrade the position due to restrictions of cap space, they could look to add a talented player in the draft in the middle rounds. A player like LB Jordyn Brooks from Texas Tech comes to mind. Brooks could be a do it all type of linebacker, who has great athleticism and the ability to cover. Brooks tallied 108 tackles with three sacks and a forced fumble during his senior campaign. Brooks has room for improvement, but shows a lot of potential to be a strong linebacker for years to come. The Steelers could keep Barron under contract to see if his play improves to match the contract next year or move on to see if they can upgrade with a player already on the roster, free agency, or the NFL Draft.

Should the Steelers allow Mark Barron another year to try to improve his play or try to upgrade through free agency or the draft? Let us know in the comments below!


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One Comment

  1. Tiffany

    March 13, 2020 at 10:02 pm

    More from Cecil! I love his style and his thinking.

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