The Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 season came to an end on Sunday in Foxborough and that means it’s time to start looking ahead to the 2017 season. I’ve already gone over the Steelers pending free agents and will now give you a rough outline of their current salary cap situation in addition to looking ahead at some of the offseason business that awaits the team as it relates to new contracts.
As we sit here today, the Steelers currently have 39 players under contract for the 2017 season. As most of you should know by now, teams work off of the rule of 51 during the offseason so that means we have to project the top 51 salaries and cap charges in order to have a solid starting point. With the Steelers having several soon-to-be exclusive rights free agents that they’ll ultimately give minimum salary tenders to, I have projected those in the table below. Those players are: running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, tackle Alejandro Villanueva, linebacker Anthony Chickillo, kicker Chris Boswell, safety Jordan Dangerfield, fullback Roosevelt Nix, center B.J. Finney, wide receiver Cobi Hamilton and tight end Xavier Grimble.
In adding those projected exclusive rights signings, we are now up to 48 players under contract so we need three more to get to 51. Undoubtedly, several of the players currently on the Steelers practice squad will be signed to futures contracts so it’s easy to add three place holders in order to get to 51 and I have done that below.
As you can see below, I have the Steelers top 51 cap charges projected to be $133,738,102. Additionally, I have the team down for $2,395,219 in projected 2017 dead money which will surely grow some as we get into the offseason.
To give you a more realistic picture of the Steelers 2017 salary cap situation, I have also added in some future projected charges that will need to be accounted for at some point moving forward. These projected charges include rookie signing bonus displacement (draft picks and undrafted free agents), a 10-man practice squad, a 52nd and 53rd player, a final cap loan repayment, and workout bonuses. Keep in mind that these are only projected amounts and they’re certain to not be exact, only relatively close.
Currently, the Steelers have $3,269,368 in leftover salary cap space from the 2016 season that they can rollover to 2017 and that is also included in the table below.
Based on several reports from the December owners meetings, the 2017 NFL salary cap is projected to come in between $166-$170 million. With that, we will work with the middle of those two numbers ($168 million) until we get a better idea of what the 2017 salary cap number will ultimately be.
As you can see, I have the Steelers currently projected as having $29,482,044 in available 2017 salary cap space. Now, keep in mind that the team usually likes to have at least a $3 million in salary cap space available to them for in-season injury replacements so in short, I would estimate that there is currently around $26 million in real available cap space to work with.
Now that we have a projected starting point as far as what the Steelers available 2017 salary cap space looks like, we can now move forward and start discussing a few other things that will be on the business agenda such as players who will potentially receive new contracts during the offseason.
We’ll start first with wide receiver Antonio Brown, who will almost certainly get a contract extension between now and the start of the 2017 regular season. It’s important to remember that $8,908,334 of Brown’s currently scheduled cap charge for 2017 is previously prorated bonus money and thus that’s not going anywhere. Brown will undoubtedly want to be the league’s highest paid wide receiver and if that’s ultimately the case, the Steelers might end up signing him to a four-year extension with the new money value of that deal maybe coming in at around $60.3 million. In other words, a five-year contract worth roughly $65 million as he still has $4.71 million left on his old contract. In short, such a contract extension can be structured so that Brown’s new 2017 cap charge would come in at around $13.8 million, which is just slightly higher than his currently scheduled cap charge of $13,618,334. I’ll explore what a potential new contract for Brown might look like in a future post.
The Steelers will also need to do something with running back Le’Veon Bell before the start of the 2017 league year in March and that something might start with the franchise tag. That projected amount right now is roughly $12.4 million. If that’s ultimately the course of action that’s taken, the Steelers could then work on trying to sign Bell to an extension throughout the rest of the offseason. They could, however, decide to let him play the 2017 season out under the franchise tag if they so choose. In other words, his 2017 cap charge could ultimately wind up being the full amount of the franchise tag and obviously lower than that if a new long-term deal is agreed upon by both sides. It will be very interesting to see how things play out with Bell and how it affects the Steelers 2017 salary cap situation.
Let’s move on now and talk about Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who will be entering the final year of his rookie contract come March. It’s easy to speculate that Tuitt will be a candidate for an extension during the offseason as well. Tuitt’s future market value is very tough to gauge right now. $7 million average yearly value? Higher? I will examine this topic later on during the offseason, but regardless, I think there’s a good chance an extension ultimately gets done with him and if it does, his 2017 cap charge will certainly increase.
Linebacker Lawrence Timmons is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent during the offseason and I still believe the Steelers will try to re-sign him to a two or three year contract. What is his current market value? $3.5 million a season? Higher? Like Tuitt, Timmons is another player I will explore during the coming weeks. If the Steelers ultimately do re-sign Timmons, his 2017 cap charge should easily be less than $5 million.
The Steelers will have a few other soon-to-be unrestricted free agents in addition to Timmons that they might want to re-sign in the coming weeks and months and they are linebacker James Harrison, running back DeAngelo Williams, defensive end Ricardo Mathews, and long snapper Greg Warren. Fortunately, none of them should ultimately cost a lot from a 2017 cap charge perspective if inked to new deals.
No, I’m not forgetting about quarterback Landry Jones, another soon-to-be free agent, I just think he’ll ultimately sign elsewhere sometime in March or April.
The Steelers do have two restricted free agents who will likely receive tenders and they are cornerback Ross Cockrell and tackle Chris Hubbard. Of the two, I can see Cockrell possibly receiving a second-round tender instead of a low level one like I expect Hubbard to receive. A second-round tender might ultimately come in at around $2.8 million, while a low-level tender figures to be around $1.9 million. Those amounts won’t be known for several more weeks.
Now, do keep in mind that a small adjustment come be coming the Steelers way and there’s always a chance we could see a few terminations prior to the start of the new league year. Tackle Ryan Harris certainly fits that criteria and the Steelers would save his $1.9 million salary by cutting him. Linebacker Arthur Moats is yet another player that fits that criteria but the Steelers can always go to him and ask him to take a pay cut in lieu of releasing him.
Come the start of the 2017 league year in March we should have a little clearer picture when it comes to the Steelers salary cap situation as by then we should know whether or not Bell has received a new deal or the franchise tag. Additionally, we’ll know by then which restricted and exclusive rights free agents have been issued tenders. Also, several futures contracts will be signed by then. In the meantime, I hope I have given you a good, albeit rough, picture of the Steelers 2017 salary cap situation as we sit here in late January in addition to several new contracts that will likely be signed at some point during the offseason.
|STEELERS 2017 PROJECTED SALARY CAP RECAP|
|PLAYER||BASE SALARY||CAP CHARGE|
|Fitzgerald Toussaint (ERFA)||$690,000||$690,000|
|Alejandro Villanueva (ERFA)||$615,000||$615,000|
|Anthony Chickillo (ERFA)||$615,000||$615,000|
|Chris Boswell (ERFA)||$615,000||$615,000|
|Jordan Dangerfield (ERFA)||$615,000||$615,000|
|Roosevelt Nix (ERFA)||$615,000||$615,000|
|B.J. Finney (ERFA)||$540,000||$540,000|
|Cobi Hamilton (ERFA)||$540,000||$540,000|
|Xavier Grimble (ERFA)||$540,000||$540,000|
|Projected Top 51 Under Contract||$81,783,868||$133,738,102|
|Projected Dead Money Total||$2,395,222|
|ADDITIONAL FUTURE CHARGES||AMOUNT|
|Projected Prorated Rookie Signing Bonus Displacement||$2,000,000|
|Projected Practice Squad Players||$1,224,000|
|Projected Final Cap Loan Repayment||$1,000,000|
|Projected 52nd & 53rd Players||$930,000|
|Projected Workout Bonuses||$500,000|
|ADDITIONAL FUTURE CREDITS||AMOUNT|
|2016 SALARY CAP ROLLOVER||$3,269,368|
|2017 SALARY CAP NUMBER||AMOUNT|
|Projected NFL Salary Cap As Of 12/2016||$168,000,000|
|AVAILABLE SALARY CAP SPACE||AMOUNT|
|Projected 2017 Salary Cap Space As Of 1/2017||$29,482,044|