I wasn’t going to write about this today, but after going through the comments of the article that I wrote yesterday discussing the contract situation of Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, I thought it would make sense. To put it simply, I think the majority of people are underestimating the sort of contract the Steelers are willing to commit to him.
To preface what follows, it goes without saying that I know no more in terms of substantiated facts than anybody else who has commented on the process knows when it comes to actual numbers that might be thrown around between Villanueva’s agent and the Steelers’ front office.
Frankly, Villanueva might not even know the figures. He told reporters that he doesn’t really check in with his agent and is just leaving it in his hands while he continues to focus on becoming better as a player, understanding that he is still somewhat of a novice who must continue to push for improvement.
But he has improved well enough to the point in which we are discussing very legitimately the possibility that he receives a contract extension entering his third season, as an exclusive rights free agent, which is not something that happens very often, simply because there is rarely much incentive for the team who owns the player’s rights to do so.
That is why the majority of those who have talked about this—including the full range, from reporters to bloggers to commenters on articles—have been largely working under the assumption that the Steelers are only going to offer Villanueva an extremely modest long-term deal, otherwise they will sit on their hands until he signed his tender and plays out the season.
I don’t think it’s quite going to go that way, quite frankly, and while I fully reserve the right to be wrong, I have a good feeling that he is not going to be low-balled. The front office is certainly not going to offer him top-of-the market money, but they are also not going to take advantage of his circumstances.
The general dollar range that I have been hearing pushed around that most people seem to think is reasonable, or what they think the Steelers are attempting to offer on the high range, is somewhere between $4-6 million.
It’s going to be awfully hard to sign a franchise left tackle for that price, even a still-not-fully-proven third-year one who is going to turn 29. Even if it means stepping on the toes of Marcus Gilbert at right tackle, whose 2014 extension averaged $6 million in new money.
Fairly or not, the right tackle position still does not get paid the way left tackle does. When Gilbert signed his deal, he was also not much more proven than is Villanueva—arguably even less so, and with a worse injury history. But they believed in his turnaround and it paid off.
Beyond that, we have to talk about the salary cap. In 2014, Gilbert’s $6 million average deal reflected a percentage of the year’s $133 base salary cap of 4.5. The cap this year is $167. 4.5 percent of this year’s cap would be over $7.5 million per season.
I’m just saying, don’t be surprised if Villanueva ends up signing a deal that averages $8 million per season. It could be more than that, it could be less than that, but if he does sign a deal, I would be very surprised if it’s more than a million and a half less per year.