Player: Ryan Shazier
Position: Inside Linebacker
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted (Will Toll?)
2018 Salary Cap Hit: $8,718,000
2018 Season Breakdown:
Of course we already know Ryan Shazier’s story, the first-round inside linebacker of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2014. He was an immediate starter and emerged as a dynamic Pro Bowl player by his third season, with one of the few knocks about him being his ability to stay healthy.
So it was with a touch of irony that 2017 was the healthiest of his career before he ultimately suffered a severe spinal injury that puts his football future in jeopardy. Shazier had hardly come off the field for a snap during the season prior to that injury.
He has of course spent the past year recovering. The Steelers moved him to the Physically Unable to Perform List as soon as they could, restructuring his contract, and he remained on the list all season, of course.
But he was always a presence, in the locker room, in meetings—with players and with coaches—and even on the sidelines. He has become so many different things to the Steelers, even providing some insight as a coach.
That is well where his future may lie. While he continues to talk about his desire to continue to play, he has also spent his time learning just about every other aspect there is to learn about football. Even if he returns to play some day, he likely will still be a coach, scout, executive, or some other role in a football organization in the long run, provided that it continues to be his wish.
Free Agency Outlook:
Obviously, the only team that is going to be considering signing Shazier is the Steelers, with whom he has spent his entire career. He became a two-time Pro Bowler during his first four seasons with the team before he suffered his injury.
The belief is that Shazier, who spent the entirety of the 2018 season on the PUP List, will have his contract toll, but again, like Eli Rogers as was discussed yesterday, there has been some uncertainty on this topic coming from the Steelers. Even Art Rooney II didn’t sound certain if they would have to sign him to a new contract.
However, we are working under the assumption that it will toll, and that also likely played a role in the team’s decision to restructure his fifth-year option last year, turning all but the equivalent veteran-minimum salary into a signing bonus, so that, should his contract indeed toll, it would toll at the minimum amount rather than at over $8 million.
The Steelers have pretty much said that they will continue to support Shazier in his attempt to return to the field for as long as he wishes to do so. He has been making slow but steady progress over the course of the past 14-plus months, including having begun jogging. Only time will tell if he ever recovers to the point that he would be able to return to the field. If not, he will find another way to be involved.