If the report yesterday is true that the Pittsburgh Steelers are asking sixth-year cornerback Cortez Allen to accept a pay cut from the over $4 million that he is scheduled to earn in base salary this season, then perhaps his saga—which has been a rough one over the past three seasons—is not yet over.
The former fourth-round draft pick in 2011 was signed to a long-term extension in advance of the 2014 season, a year after he entered the starting lineup, suffered an ankle injury in the opener, and was demoted to nickel due to his struggles upon his return. He only regained his starting job late in the year, which included a pick six in the penultimate game.
During his first season under his new contract, he was demoted yet again after several games, and then benched after continued struggles. Last season, he was projected to return to the starting lineup, but was replaced between the conclusion of the preseason and the start of the regular season. He served as the nickel cornerback in the season opener, but did not play again.
A common thread throughout these three seasons, and, in fact, his entire career, has been injuries. It started during his rookie training camp, which threatened his ability to make the roster in the first place, and has continued to included season-ending stints on injured reserve in each of the past two seasons.
Because of his injuries and ineffectiveness, it has been a widely held belief that he would not see the third year of his new deal this year, with Allen likely becoming a post-June cut that would save them the amount of his scheduled base salary while pushing dead money into 2017.
But if the Steelers have indeed extended an offer to return on a lower salary, and if he indeed accepts the terms of his restructured contract, then it at least opens the door for him to remain with the team in 2016 after struggling to contribute over the course of the past three seasons.
It would not, however, guarantee him a roster spot simply to take a pay cut, of course. Even if he agrees to take a hit on his scheduled base salary, it would not change the fact that that money is not guaranteed, and that he could still be released at any time. It merely makes the prospect of carrying him on the roster more palatable.
What it does is give him a chance, and it gives the team options. At the moment, one could speculate that Allen under his current contract is not a roster option, but Allen under a reduced base salary could be an option, with a stress on the word option.
The Steelers will continue to attempt to improve their secondary, particularly the cornerback position, via free agency and the draft. And they will look to see where they stand at the position during training camp and the preseason. If Allen is agreeable to a pay cut, he can put himself in the mix for 2016, in some capacity. Otherwise, figure on him being gone in June.