Just prior to the start of the 2014 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed cornerback Cortez Allen to a four-year extension worth $24.6 million. It was certainly a big gamble being as the former fourth-round draft pick out of the Citadel had only started 11 regular-season games in his first three years in the league. That gamble has now seemingly crapped-out as Allen, for a second year in a row, has found himself on the team’s injured reserve list. Sadly, he’s only started 7 games over the course of the last two seasons and many of his nearly 500 snaps played during that span weren’t fun to watch.
While it certainly appears as though Allen is headed for an offseason release, don’t be surprised if he’s still on the roster when the team reports to Latrobe for training camp in 2016 and here’s why.
For starters, the Steelers will only save $1.7 million in salary cap space should they release Allen prior to June 1. That amount is the difference between his scheduled $5.75 million cap charge and the $4.05 million in dead money the team will be charged for releasing him. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not a lot of cap savings.
Additionally, there is still some level of uncertainly as it relates to the Steelers cornerback depth next season as Senquez Golson, the team’s second-round draft pick this year, and Allen are the only two corners currently under contract for 2016. Golson, by the way, has yet to play a snap in a game. For the sake of this discussion, you can probably assume that cornerback Ross Cockrell will be back next season as he’ll easily be retained during the offseason with a minimum exclusive rights tender.
As for the cornerbacks currently on the team that aren’t under contract for the 2016 season, one would think that William Gay should be easily retained without breaking the bank. The same goes for Antwon Blake, but as things stand right now, you have to wonder if the team would want him back. As for Brandon Boykin, who the Steelers acquired via a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles during training camp, he’s probably counting down the days until free agency gets underway as he certainly can’t be happy in Pittsburgh right now.
The Steelers also currently have rookie cornerback Doran Grant on their practice squad, but he’s a huge unknown at this point. The fact that he failed to make the team’s final 53-man roster out of training camp this year as a fourth-round draft pick is very concerning when it comes to his upside.
Now, back to Allen. Assuming he can put his knee problems behind him once and for all and fully participate during the team’s offseason practices, he will then likely stand a good chance of hanging around the rest of the summer. If he can’t win a starting job during training camp, however, the team can cut him prior to the start of the regular season and that will result in the Steelers saving $4.4 million in cap space in 2016. Taking that route with Allen, however, would result in a dead money charge of $2.7 million in 2017.