Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert made it clear at this year’s scouting combine that linebacker Ryan Shazier would miss the entire 2018 season due to the serious spinal injury he suffered last season. Since then, several have speculated that the Steelers might ultimately do something with Shazier’s contract this offseason in order to free up some additional salary cap space. Ahead of the league’s owners meetings getting underway in Orlando, FL, Colbert somewhat addressed Shazier’s contract situation.
“Ryan’s recovery is first and foremost,” Colbert said Sunday, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette. “Our approach is there’s no ceiling in Ryan’s recovery. It’s a process. We support him every day. Where it leads only he will know and only he will determine it further down the road.”
As for the possibility of the Steelers doing something with Shazier’s contract this offseason, such as extending it by one year to lower his 2018 salary cap charge, Dulac reports that Colbert admitted it being a possibility, but that he quickly added “that’s so far down the road” and that it’s not currently part of the overall thought process.
Shazier is currently scheduled to earn $8.718 million in 2018 as part of his fifth-year option being picked up by the Steelers at this same time last offseason. Once the Steelers picked up Shazier’s fifth-year option it was guaranteed for injury only and unfortunately for the linebacker, that came into play last season. While the Steelers could extend Shazier’s contract this offseason by at least a year in order to free up some additional salary cap space, I think I’ll be surprised if they ultimately do that.
So, what happens to Shazier’s contract moving forward should the Steelers decide against extending it? Well, according to former NFL agent Joel Corry, Shazier’s contract will likely toll in 2019 if he’s placed on the Steelers RESERVE/PUP list come the start of the regular season and is ultimately not healthy enough to perform football services by the sixth regular season game.
Article 20, Section 2 of the CBA: Physically Unable to Perform: Any player placed on a Physically Unable to Perform list (“PUP”) will be paid his full Paragraph 5 Salary while on such list. His contract will not be tolled for the period he is on PUP, except in the last year of his contract, when the player’s contract will be tolled if he is still physically unable to perform his football services as of the sixth regular season game.
If you remember back a few years ago, now former Steelers tackle Mike Adams had his contract toll after spending the entire 2015 season on the team’s RESERVE/PUP list with a back injury. The Steelers, however, ultimately cut Adams right after the 2016 NFL Draft took place so his contract tolling wound up being a moot point.
In short, unless the Steelers really have a need for salary cap space between now and the start of the 2018 regular season, they should really leave Shazier’s contract alone. Currently, they are $3,166,080 under the cap, according to the NFLPA, and that’s more than enough space to sign their entire 2018 draft class, undrafted free agents and possibly even a few more minimum salaried players, thanks to roster displacement. If you think about it, there’s a good chance that a few of this year’s final roster cuts might ultimately clear additional salary cap space with safety J.J. Wilcox and his $3.125 million base salary still potentially leading the list of possibilities.
In addition to some salary cap space potentially being created closer to the start of the 2018 regular season due to final roster cuts, don’t forget that the Steelers will likely try to extend the contract of kicker Chris Boswell at some point during the summer after issuing him a second-round restricted tender a few weeks ago. Boswell is currently slated to count $2.914 million against the Steelers salary cap in 2018 and an extension could potentially lower that number some. Additionally, should the Steelers somehow find a way to come to terms with running back Le’Veon Bell on a long-term contract extension by the July 16 deadline, there’s a good chance his currently scheduled 2018 salary cap charge of $14.544 million will be lowered some as a result of that.
We’ll see how all of this ultimately plays out with Shazier and his contract but as I already stated once in this post, I’ll be somewhat surprised if the Steelers do anything with his deal and hopefully they won’t have to touch it.