The Pittsburgh Steelers made it clear several months ago that inside linebacker Ryan Shazier would definitely miss the entire 2018 season due to the serious spinal injury that he suffered during the 2017 season. On Wednesday, the Steelers officially place Shazier on the team’s Reserve/PUP list and he’ll be expected to remain there the remainder of season. Now that that move has happened, several are wondering what Shazier’s status will be in 2019.
While Shazier will indeed still earn $8.718 million in 2018 as a result of his fifth-year option that the Steelers picked up a little over a year ago that was fully guaranteed against injury, he will not be an unrestricted free agent next March like some are suggesting. Instead, and according to former NFL agent Joel Corry, the final year of Shazier’s contract is expected to toll in 2019 and presumably at $8.718 million.
“It will toll,” Corry told me on Wednesday.
Also according to Corry, that tolled year is not expected to be guaranteed.
Contract tolling doesn’t happen a lot in the NFL. However, if you’ve followed the Steelers for the last several years you’ve probably noticed that two different players have had their contracts toll dating back to just 2016.
Former Steelers tackle Mike Adams had the fourth and final year of his rookie contract toll into 2016 after he had spent the entire 2015 regular season on the team’s Reserve/PUP list with a back injury. Even though the final year of Adams’ rookie contract had tolled, the Steelers ultimately released their former second-round draft pick in May of 2016 with a failed physical designation.
As for the other Steelers player who had his contract toll recently, that was now former wide receiver Martavis Bryant. Bryant’s rookie contract tolled due him missing the entire 2016 season due to suspension for again violating the league’s substance abuse policy. While Bryant appeared headed to playing for the Steelers in 2018 ahead of this years draft, the organization decided to trade him to the Oakland Raiders this past Thursday during the first-round in exchange for a third-round draft pick.
Back to Shazier. Should the Steelers former first-round draft pick out of Ohio State ultimately be able to overcome his serious injury enough by next March and thus remain on track to resume his career, he will likely do so at a $8.718 million salary barring any other kind of contract amount negotiation. If, however, Shazier is unable to pass his physical by next offseason, the Steelers might decide to release him with a failed physical designation just as they did with Adams a few years ago.
Shazier, who suffered his spinal injury during the Steelers Week 13 Monday night road game against the Cincinatti Bengals, will be five full months removed from that incident this coming Friday. Shazier, who initially couldn’t move his legs after suffering his injury, was able to walk across the stage in Dallas Thursday night with the assistance from his fiancée to announce the Steelers selection of safety Terrell Edmunds during the first-round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
“Obviously, you saw Ryan Shazier take some very inspirational steps and that’s a huge lift for not only him, but for us,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said shortly after Shazier had walked across the stage in Dallas and announced the team’s first-round selection. “To see where he has come from to where he is and knowing where he might be able to go, it’s just, it’s beyond inspirational. It’s just exciting and it’s really exciting for him.”