The new league year is now less than two weeks away, but prior to that, the Pittsburgh Steelers have to decide what course of action to take with their three restricted free agents, cornerback Antwon Blake, safety Robert Golden, and fullback Will Johnson.
The restricted free agent tender amounts should be announced by the league very soon along with the 2015 salary cap number, but when it comes to Blake, Golden and Johnson, the right of first refusal one should be the only one that is in play, and that amount will likely come in at around $1.54 million.
While Blake and Johnson have both seen a considerable amount of playing time during their time in Pittsburgh, Golden has primarily been used on special teams. In fact, he’s only played just over 100 snaps on defense in the three seasons that he’s been on the roster.
Now, the Steelers don’t have to tender any of the three players, but they would be wise to find a way to at least keep both Blake and Johnson, and they can do that by signing them to long-term deals with very little risk and potential future dead money in addition to keeping the 2015 cap charges of each very managable.
For example, the minimum base salary that all three players can earn in 2015 is $660,000. Getting one or all of them to sign three-year deals with minimum base salaries and a $1 million signing bonus would allow them all to earn more in 2015 than they would have had they been given a right of first refusal tender.
Such a deal would also result in a cap charge of $993,333.33 for each and that’s a lot better than $1.54 million. Should any of them ultimately not make the final 53 man roster, the dead money charge for each would only be $333,333.33 in 2015 with another $666,666.66 being charge off as dead in 2016.
If any of them decide that they don’t want to take such a deal, they can try to test free agency. However, in doing so, each would be making a huge gamble that could result in them only getting a one-year deal for the league minimum.
I suspect that all three players will sign deals similar to the one that I used in the example above.