The Optimist’s Take: Timing And Method Of Release For Cortez Allen

The Pittsburgh Steelers have, by and large, been on an upward swing over the course of the past two and a half seasons after they missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and failed to win a postseason game in four straight years.

Last season saw them gain that elusive playoff victory, though they came up short with about three minutes left in the Divisional round a week later. Their offense took off, and their defense improved, showing playmaking ability and opportunism.

But there are still a lot of unanswered questions facing the team as we crack into free agency territory. As an exercise, we like to take a stab at some of those questions, presenting arguments for the pros and cons of each side of the coin. This is the optimist’s take on the following question.

Question: Was the decision to cut outright Cortez Allen now, and with no designation, the best move?

We got a bit of late in the week news yesterday evening when the Steelers announced that they had released five-year veteran cornerback Cortez Allen, originally a 2011 fourth-round draft pick who had spent time in the starting lineup, but equally as much time sidelined with injuries.

In spite of injury concerns and the fact that he had to be demoted due to below the line play, the Steelers signed Allen to a five-year, $26 million contract, partially due to the fact that he was able to regain his starting job late in 2013, and topped off the penultimate game of the season with a key pick six.

In fact, it was Allen’s largely random flurry of turnover production, notably late in the 2012 season during which he was starting as an injury fill-in, that encouraged the team to let Keenan Lewis go, believing Allen was their cornerback of the future.

That proved to be a very wrong notion, it not simply due to performance, then due to his sheer inability to remain healthy. Even while on the field, Allen played hurt frequently, and it seemed inevitable that he would not make the 53-man roster.

When reports surfaced that he was asked to take a pay cut, the assumption was that he would at least make it to training camp, and this leads me to believe that the timing of his release, just weeks into April, suggests that the front office’s request was refused, prompting his release. If you ask a player to take a pay cut, you have to be prepared to do without that player.

That is the likeliest explanation for the timing of the release, even if it is against the team’s nature to cut a veteran loose this far into free agency—they are more likely to release him early to give him a fair chance to hit the market—but there are some advantages to it.

For one thing, it helps to clarify the secondary position heading into the 2016 NFL Draft, and while this doesn’t necessarily translate to an increased need at cornerback, it does simplify matters, knowing exactly who they have to work with.

In addition to cutting him now, and doing so outright with no post-June 1 designation, the Steelers due reap some immediate benefits with respect to the cap. The team gains $1.7 million in cap space for 2016, minus displacement, which is money that they have access to immediately, putting them somewhere just north of $3 million under the cap I believe.

Had they released him with a post-June 1 designation, they would have received a $4.4 million cap flow, minus displacement, although the $2.7 million discrepancy would have been made up in additional dead money in 2017. Doing what they did in the manner they did it would be most beneficial if they have a use for that extra cap space before June, so how much this particular move and how it was made actually makes sense is yet to be determined from my point of view.

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