Steelers Heavy Use Of The Restricted Free Agency As A Filtering System Ends This Off-season

The Pittsburgh Steelers had six restricted free agents this off-season and they tendered four of them as Emmanuel Sanders, Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Steve McLendon were all issued tenders of $1.3 million. Stevenson Sylvester and Jeremy Kapinos were the two players that were not tendered.

With those restricted tenders now in the books, it will likely be the last time that you see that many in future years due to the fact that the 2011 CBA agreement states that all drafted players are required to receive four year contracts.

Will there still be a few restricted free agents that occasionally need tendering in the future? Yes, but those players will be few and far between and will generally consist of undrafted players or futures players that stick.

The Steelers survived a long time by going against the grain and using restricted free agency to their advantage. While other teams normally signed all of their draft picks to at least four year deals, the Steelers signed their draft picks that were selected in the third round or later to three year deals instead.

While the Steelers draft picks did not lose in the average yearly value game, they generally didn\’t receive as big of signing bonuses up front as other teams\’ draft picks that received four year deals. This enabled them to lessen the upfront money needed to sign a draft pick for starters and it also created less potential dead money acceleration should that draft pick not work out within the first two years of him being drafted.

When a player was worthy of being retained after playing three years, the Steelers would simply restricted tender him for one year. After year four, if an extension was not yet handed out by the time the free agent signing period rolled around again, the Steelers had the option of using the franchise or transition tag on the player.

A quicker filtering system? I guess you could call it that? Smart business? Well, the Steelers are normally a team that makes the playoffs year in and year out. (Yes, I am well aware that they went 8-8 last season.)

Whatever you want to call the strategy, it pretty much ended when the new CBA went into effect.

Dating back to the 2000 draft class, the only draft picks selected from the third round and on to receive a second contracts longer than one year are Antonio Brown, Willie Colon, Trai Essex, Chris Kemoeatu, Max Starks, Ike Taylor, Larry Foote, Verron Haynes, Brett Keisel and Chukky Okobi. That\’s a pretty small list. No, that\’s a very small list.

Moving forward, the Steelers will be on the same playing level as the other 31 teams in the league. Does this mean that they have to start having a better hit ratio with their later round picks? It certainly appears that way, but the slotting system, combined with the salary cap expected to start escalating at a greater rate in 2015 when the new TV money revenue kicks in, might just keep everything pretty relevant.

In the end it might just wind up resulting in more out of pocket cash in the form of signing bonus money up front when a draft pick is signed and the three year filtering system taken away. We shall see.

One thing is for certain, however, the Steelers had six restricted free agents this off-season and that number will far less next off-season.

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