The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.
Question: Which player is more likely to live up to the value of his contract: TE Vance McDonald or CB Joe Haden?
Let’s start first by setting the parameters here. When I’m talking about contract value, I’m talking about the hypothetical whole of the contract, not just this season. For the details of Vance McDonald’s contract, see here. For the details of Joe Haden’s contract, see here.
Last August, the Steelers acquired both of these players in the hopes of finding starters at two positions that needed upgrades. Haden was signed to a three-year, $27 million contract, of which he earned $7 million last season between his signing bonus and base salary.
In 2017 and 2018, he will be due $10 million per season, though his cap hits for these years are nearly $12 million because of the proration of his nearly $6 million signing bonus. He will be on the books for nearly $2 million this year and next year (or nearly $4 million this year pre-June) regardless of whether or not he is on the team.
McDonald was acquired via trade after having already signed a new contract, and the Steelers inherited that deal, which runs through 2021 with base salaries of $3.7, $4.2, $5.5, and $5.5 million. There is a $750 thousand roster bonus each season, which is divided by the number of games he plays, and $150 thousand workout bonuses.
The price of a quality starting cornerback is expensive and only rising. There is debate over where exactly Haden fits within the current hierarchy of talent available, but he was clearly an upgrade for the secondary, especially considering that he had to adjust to a new system and new teammates essentially on the fly.
McDonald was slow to contribute in large part because he struggled to stay on the field due to injury, but when he did play extensively in games, he certainly presented the appearance of a starting tight end, even with the occasional drop, but offset by dynamic receiving ability and stout blocking.