As Dave Bryan pointed out after Maurkice Pouncey signed a two-year, $11 million contract extension with the Pittsburgh Steelers to make him the highest-paid center in NFL history, perhaps one of the motivations for the team to get that done now, in spite of the fact that the move didn’t save any salary cap space, is because Ben Roethlisberger wanted it done, and they want to extend him as well.
“They can come to me tomorrow and say we want to get your deal done. I’ll say, ‘get Pouncey done first’. That’s only because I want to make sure he’ll be here”, he told Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette back in January. “He’s a guy my career hinges on because he means that much to me”.
That may well have played a role in the team’s decision to get something done now that they ordinarily wait until training camp to take care of, but I think there was another, bigger motivation: they wanted to make sure that they beat the market before the top of the position’s pay scale increases yet again.
Last year, former Baltimore Ravens center Ryan Jensen parlayed literally one year of starting experiencing into a long-term contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that paid him $10.5 million per season, setting a new plateau for the center position. Pouncey’s nearly $9 million APY on his contract extension in 2014 had been passed several times over since then despite being the highest salary for a center at the time.
So his new extension put him back on top, but only for about a week. When the new league year begins on Wednesday, Mitch Morse is expected to sign a four-year, $44.5 million deal with the Buffalo Bills that will pay him $11.125 million per year. Surely you don’t think that’s a random number and just happens to come in a tick above Pouncey’s.
But there is another name on the horizon that could set the market even higher. Matt Paradis, a sixth-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2014, has developed into one of the top safeties in the league, in spite of the fact that he has yet to be named to a Pro Bowl.
Many are expecting him to become the highest-paid center once he signs a deal, and as of last night, the Broncos are still working on retaining him, but should he go without signing a deal by 4 PM on Wednesday, that will be quite difficult to do.
The long and short of this all is that Pouncey spent about a week as the league’s highest-paid center, provided that Morse’s deal goes through as anticipated. He made his seventh Pro Bowl in 2018 and was named at least second-team All-Pro for the fifth time in his nine-year career, which was shortened almost two full seasons due to injury.