The Pittsburgh Steelers had two players on their Reserve/PUP list in 2018 in inside linebacker Ryan Shazier and Eli Rogers with the former remaining there the entire season. Because both were playing on the final year on their respective contracts (one-year contracts for both), on paper, it would appear as though Shazier and Rogers would both become unrestricted free agents in March. That, however, might not wind up being the case as both spent enough time on the Steelers Reserve/PUP list that their final contract years will likely toll during the offseason.
Below is what the NFL CBA says about contract tolling for players who spend time on a team’s Reserve/PUP list during a season:
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.
Shazier’s contract tolling this upcoming season is probably a virtual guarantee right now and that stipulation in the CBA may have played a big part in the Steelers decision to restructure his contract in the manner that they did last May so that it wouldn’t toll in 2019 at the rate of $8.718 million.
As for Rogers, who did finally get activated off the Steelers Reserve/PUP list in the middle of December, his contract will likely toll this offseason as well, assuming he wasn’t considered physically able to perform his football services as of the sixth regular season game. That’s something that probably only the league, Rogers, his agent and the Steelers know right now. If Rogers’ side believes that the wide receiver was physically able to resume playing as of the sixth regular season game, they could file a grievance with the league to prevent the contract tolling so that he could become an unrestricted free agent in March.
Even if Rogers’ contract is eligible to toll this offseason, the Steelers could do him a solid and release him in early March to allow him to test free agency. In fact, last March the Seattle Seahawks did that very thing with cornerback DeShawn Shead. Shead’s situation in 2017 was very similar to the one Rogers went through this past season in that he spent most of the regular season on the Seahawks Reserve/PUP list because of a knee injury that had required surgery.
I reached out recently to former NFL agent and current CBS Sports analyst Joel Corry and he confirmed to me that he currently expects the contracts of both Shazier and Rogers to toll this offseason. According to his knowledge of both players’ situations, Shazier’s contract will toll at the amount of $805,000 for 2019 while Rogers’ contract is expected to toll in 2019 at an amount of $720,000.