While most people who follow the Pittsburgh Steelers closely expect defensive end Cameron Heyward and tackle Kelvin Beachum to both receive a contract extensions later this summer, there’s one beat writer who isn’t so sure that the latter is a slam-dunk to get a new deal prior to the start of the 2015 season.
In his most recent online chat, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was asked if he thought Beachum would be allowed to test free agency next offseason and his reply was straight and to the point.
“Absolutely,” Dulac wrote. “And he would be stupid if he didn’t.”
Beachum, who was drafted by the Steelers in the seventh-round of the 2012 NFL Draft out of SMU, is currently entrenched as the Steelers starting left tackle after taking over the job from Mike Adams early in the 2013 season. While he lacks the ideal measurables normally associated with starting left tackles in the NFL, Beachum has showed that he can play the position at a high level. In fact, Beachum was ranked as the fifth-best tackle in the league last season by Pro Football Focus and even one spot ahead of the Dallas Cowboys All-Pro left tackle, Tyron Smith.
If the Steelers are going to extend Beachum this offseason, one would think that he would expect to receive a contract bigger than the five-year, $30 million extension that right tackle Marcus Gilbert signed prior to last season. Gilbert received a $7.65 million signing bonus as part of that deal that also included a $3.5 million roster bonus that was paid to him five days into this current league year.
Judging by what the other top left tackles in the league are currently earning, Beachum will probably expect to earn an average of around $10 million a season and anything less than that amount should probably be viewed as a bargain. In case you’re curious, the aforementioned Smith is currently the league’s highest paid offensive lineman in the league thanks to the eight-year, $97.6 million contract extension he signed with the Cowboys last July.
Now, should the Steelers choose not to extend Beachum prior to the start of the 2015 season, they will be able to use either the franchise or transition tag on him next offseason, should they indeed want to retain his services.
In case you need a refresher, the franchise tag is a one-year tender offered to a player for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position, or 120 percent of the player’s previous salary, whichever is greater. The transition tag, on the other hand, is a one-year tender offer to a player for an amount that is the average of the top 10 salaries at the position. It guarantees the original club the right of first refusal to match any offer the player may receive from another team. Knowing the Steelers, they would likely choose the transition tag option.
Beachum is easily the Steelers best tackle on their current roster so if he is ultimately allowed to test free agency next offseason, the team undoubtedly would have to draft a new starting left tackle next year unless they believe Gilbert can switch sides or they think Alejandro Villanueva, who has never played a snap at the NFL level, can become the starter.
Now, keep in mind that guard David DeCastro will also be due an extension next offseason now that the Steelers have picked up his fifth-year option. Dulac believes that DeCastro will be extended before Beachum as well.
Personally, I think the Steelers should bite the bullet this year when it comes to Beachum and an extension, but I can see why Dulac believes that won’t be the case. At the very least, Beachum should be a prime candidate to be tagged next offseason should an extension not be given prior to the start of the 2015 season.