A lot of Pittsburgh Steelers fans were not exactly thrilled with how the 2018 NFL Draft went. There will be some who will never accept the idea that their failure to select even a single linebacker is anything less than completely stupid, even 30 years from now, for example. And of course those third-round draft picks aren’t going to do anything to help this year.
But whether you liked the draft or not, one thing it did was help the Steelers shave off some salary cap expenditures that they might not otherwise have been able to do, or may at least not have decided to make the move to eliminate that cost.
The selection of Terrell Edmunds in the first round all but sealed the fate of safety J.J. Wilcox, and if that were not enough, the addition in the fifth round of Marcus Allen was the nail in the coffin. The Steelers released the veteran safety shortly after the draft, and his $3 million and change salary along with it.
Another area in which they were able to save was at the wide receiver position, after they got the Oakland Raiders to give up a third-round draft pick for Martavis Bryant. The Steelers were looking at the position anyway, but the trade and the addition of James Washington allowed them to shave off Bryant’s nearly $2 million salary.
Pittsburgh cleared about $4 million in cap space after factoring in roster displacement with their two contracts being scrubbed from the books, which puts them in the ballpark of about $6 million under the salary cap. That might not sound like a lot of room, but it just reinforces how tight they were up against it in the first place.
The draft working out in the manner in which it did, including the pre-draft process, is what allowed these moves to be made, and this cap space—and cash—to be saved. The Steelers liked their chances of being able to add a good wide receiver in the early rounds before pulling the trigger on the Bryant trade; they wouldn’t have made the trade in the first place if that were not the case.
That’s not to say that the team’s draft choices were motivated by the possibility of moving these salaries off the roster. While they were up against the cap, that would be a pretty terrible strategy entering the draft. And the truth is that some moves might have been made anyway.
And there could be more to come. We will have to see how the quarterback position plays out, but there will only be three on the 53-man roster. If it ends up being Landry Jones on the short end of the stick, they will be able to clear another $1 million and change from the salary cap, after displacement.