The Cleveland Browns signed inside linebacker Christian Kirksey to a four-year contract extension on Wednesday and while the full details related to the deal are still unknown at this point, outside of it being worth up to $38 million with $20 million guaranteed, it hasn’t stopped some from freaking out about how it might ultimately affect the Pittsburgh Steelers future negotiations with inside linebacker Ryan Shazier.
If the early reported numbers of $38 million for Kirksey wind up being spot on and thus his new yearly average wind being $9.5 million, it will have no bearing whatsoever on future contract negotiations with Shazier, who had his 2018 fifth-year option picked up by the Steelers several weeks ago.
First off, a new contract for Shazier isn’t likely to be consummated until well over a year from now as that’s been the case with previous players the Steelers ultimately signed to lucrative long-term deals after initially picking up that player’s fifth-year option. That history, while short, has included defensive end Cameron Heyward and guard David DeCastro both getting new deals well over one-year after their fifth-year options were picked up.
Second, the amount of Shazier’s 2018 fifth-year option is $8.718 million and like it or not, that will be the absolute bottom beginning average yearly salary point as far as his future contract negotiations go. That $8.718 million is just 782,000 less than the early reported average of Kirksey’s recently signed contract, which by the way, will be very old news a year from now.
Currently and according to Over the Cap, there were six inside linebackers league-wide that are averaging $8 million or more a season prior to Kirksey signing his new deal on Wednesday. One of those players, Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing, might see himself off that list prior to the start of the 2017 regular season as several are speculating he’s not guaranteed to make the team’s final round of roster cuts.
Now, let’s assume that Shazier can stay healthy throughout the upcoming year and finally put up the kind of single-season numbers most believe he’s capable of. If he does, he’ll then be a candidate to push to become one of the league’s top three highest paid at his position. Currently, the league’s highest paid inside linebacker is Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers at $12,359,059 per season and he’s followed by Bobby Wagner ($10,750,000) and NaVorro Bowman ($10,500,000). In short, and based on the fact that Shazier’s 2018 option year amount is $8.718 million, it’s not out of the question to think he and his agent will be looking for roughly $11 million a season from the Steelers over a year from now.
Ok, what happens if Shazier unfortunately continues to miss multiple games in 2017 like he has so far during his first three years in the league? Well, at that point the Steelers will have a big decision to make when it comes to ultimately signing him to a long-term extension. Remember, fifth-year options only become fully guaranteed on the first day of the league year. That’s next March in Shazier’s case and something totally unforeseen will need to happen for him not to make to that date.
As previously mentioned, that $8.718 million will be a starting point and a starting point only with Shazier. So, in summation, Kirksey’s new four-year average will certainly not affect what Shazier will ultimately wind up earning as the Steelers linebacker is surely to easily bypass that number as long as he stays healthy.