- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Ravens reporter
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McLendon, who was penciled in to replace Casey Hampton in the starting lineup this season, visited the Green Bay Packers on Friday, according to The Sports Xchange. If the Packers sign McLendon to an offer sheet -- and they have until Friday to do so -- it would put the Steelers in a tough spot. Because of the low tender, the Steelers wouldn't get any compensation if they chose not to match an offer sheet for McLendon.
But the Steelers have to figure out if they can financially keep him. The Steelers are down to $800,000 in salary-cap space after matching the New England Patriots' offer sheet to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh could be faced with a decision: create more cap space to match the offer (which would likely require restructuring the contract of safety Troy Polamalu) or let McLendon go to a Packers team looking to fortify its run defense.
The Steelers were going to need additional cap room anyway if they wanted to sign running back Ahmad Bradshaw. It could be more difficult to sign Bradshaw as well as retain McLendon, depending on the size of the Packers' offer sheet.
If Pittsburgh lets McLendon leave, one option is to re-sign Hampton, 35, who said last season that he wanted to play two more years. Hampton could be signed for the veteran minimum of $940,000 (which is about $340,000 less than what McLendon was scheduled to make).
The lack of salary cap room forced the Steelers to put a lower-than-expected tender on McLendon. He received the $1.3 million tender, which requires no compensation if he goes elsewhere because he was undrafted. If the Steelers had put the second-round tender on him, it would've cost $700,000 more and would've essentially guaranteed him staying.
Now, the Steelers have to play a waiting game. They'll know by the end of the week if they have another decision to make on a restricted free agent.
The Pittsburgh Steelers gambled by putting the low tender on nose tackle Steve McLendon, and this time, it would be more of a challenge to keep their restricted free agent.