Not only is Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey coming off of a serious knee injury that cost him all but eight plays of the 2013 season, he’s also about to enter the final year of his rookie contract.
Scott Brown of ESPN.com recently wrote that he believes the Steelers will get a long-term deal done this offseason with their former first-round draft pick and while that indeed might be the final result, the team might be forced to wait on an extension until next offseason.
It’s important to keep in mind that the Steelers might want to get cornerback Cortez Allen and defensive end Cameron Heyward both extended prior to the start of the 2014 season. Heyward, however, has a fifth-year option that can be picked up in May, so that at least would buy the Steelers some time with him.
In addition to Allen and Heyward, linebacker Jason Worilds is still riding on the transition tender given him several weeks ago and there’s always the possibility that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will still get extended this offseason.
When it comes to Pouncey, the team might very well want to wait until next offseason to address his situation just to make sure he has no further issues with his knee. Assuming the team gets deals worked out with Allen, Heyward and Worilds this offseason, they would be able to use the transition or franchise tag on Pouncey next offseason and that would buy them a few more months time to get a long-term deal worked out with him.
Keep this in mind. Pouncey is already set to count $5.264 million against the salary cap in 2014 and if his $2.75 million roster bonus was indeed already paid to him at the start of the new league year, then over $4.15 million of his $5.264 million cap hit is already etched in stone. In other words, an extension would more than likely make his 2014 cap charge even higher than it already is.
Sure, the Steelers will get $8 million in salary cap space come June 1, but roughly a third of that will be needed to sign the 2014 draft class. The Steelers also like to have a million or so in reserve for in-season emergencies, so if both Allen and Heyward are signed to extensions, depending on the structure, you can see where Pouncey might have to wait unless Worilds or Roethlisberger are also extended as that would potentially free up more cap space.
This could certainly go either way this offseason, but rest assured we aren’t likely to see anything happen in the way of extensions until the team reports to training camp in late July.