With yesterday being the first day of the 2016 offseason, we already saw teams around the league beginning fiscally and personnel-wise preparing for this year by parting ways with certain players whose value had become misaligned with their compensation. Several players were released yesterday, with salary cap implications in mind, and you will see similar moves trickle down throughout the next few weeks.
While the Pittsburgh Steelers are no longer hurting in terms of the salary cap after spending the better part of the past four offseasons struggling to relieve themselves of mounting cap uncertainty stemming from the lockout and its ramifications, that doesn’t mean that they will not be parting with anybody.
There are not many real legitimate targets for a potential release this offseason, a factor that obviously has much to do with the fact that they don’t need to clear salary cap space just to be in compliance by the start of the league year, but there are some potential candidates.
The first one that immediately comes to mind, of course, would be cornerback Cortez Allen, who was demoted in each of the past three seasons, last year before the season even started, and only played in the season opener before eventually sitting out with an undisclosed injury for several weeks and being placed on injured reserve.
Allen was signed to a lucrative extension a couple years back, but he has not played up to it, or even close, which makes him expendable, if the Steelers so choose—and some recent comments suggest a lack of confidence in him. With a cap hit of $5.75 million, a straight release would create over $4 million in dead money, but would clear $1.7 million in cap space prior to displacement. If they want to give him an opportunity to make the roster before making the decision, a post-June cut would save $4.4 million this year, but would add that difference in dead money to next year.
Another potential candidate that would also figure to be more likely a post-June decision than now is kicker Shaun Suisham, who is coming off a torn ACL in his 30s and has seen a first-year kicker step in and fill his shoes very well. But his release would create minimal savings for this season. They will certainly look to trade him if he loses his job.
There is really nobody else on the roster that merits serious speculation about a pending release, although James Harrison could choose to retire, which would have the same financial implications. Releasing Lawrence Timmons would produce an obscene amount of dead money, even if it would produce a hefty savings as well. A restructuring via a modest extension is far more likely.
The Steelers have not been averse to making the obvious moves in the past, though I’m not sure there are any obvious February or March moves this year. Last year, they released Lance Moore and Brett Keisel, coming off a season-ending injury late in the year. The year before, they released LaMarr Woodley, Larry Foote, Curtis Brown, and Levi Brown.