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2018 Offseason Questions: Is McDonald Worth His Contract?

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: Is Vance McDonald worth his contract given the Steelers’ cap space?

While the Steelers right at this moment are not necessarily tight against their (projected) salary cap, the reality is that they will need to make more room, especially if they have any intentions of signing free agents, whether their own or from outside of the organization.

In order to do this, a number of further moves, in addition to those already taken, are expected, and that should include the release of at least a player or two that would produce some salary cap savings. The low-hanging fruit in that regard is safety J.J. Wilcox, who was a healthy scratch late in the year, and being a healthy scratch while accounting for millions is a bad combination.

The Steelers added Wilcox late in the offseason via trade, which added to their cap for 2018 that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. But so did McDonald. While he did end up in the starting lineup by the end of the year, when he was actually healthy, I suppose it can’t be guaranteed that he will remain on the team.

While Jason La Canfora claimed yesterday that his release would be “expected”, I personally hardly think so, but we do have the weigh the facts—or rather, the front office has to weigh the facts. In 2018, McDonald has a base salary of $3.7 million, plus a $750,000 roster bonus, which is dependent upon the number of games played (paid in parts per game). He can make another $150,000 in workout bonuses. So he could ultimately around $4.5 million (the roster bonus that he earned last season counts against this year’s cap regardless of his roster status as a NLTBE incentive).

While he looks as though he is capable of being a solid full-time starter when he is healthy, offering blocking ability with a big-play threat, his issues with drops and major questions about his durability give pause about committing money to him.

One facet that has to be taken into consideration, however, is that committing to him now is only committing to the 2018 season because of the way his contract is structured, which his easy to get out of on a yearly basis.

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