So far this offseason, we have been waiting word on one trade and one extension. We got one of each, but neither have been the ones we were expecting. While the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to try to trade Antonio Brown, they dealt Marcus Gilbert. Ben Roethlisberger still awaits his extension, but Maurkice Pouncey already got his—in hindsight, perhaps wise before the market resets.
One other bit of news that we are awaiting word on is a release—that of safety Morgan Burnett. While there is certainly nothing against him as a person, his presence on the roster makes little sense after he failed to secure a starting job, opening the door for 2018 first-round pick Terrell Edmunds to take over from the get-go.
The Steelers brought in Burnett after they released Mike Mitchell, seeing him as a bridge starter for at least one or two seasons. Instead, he started just one game and didn’t play every snap in that game. As a result, his salary makes no sense. He was signed to a three-year deal worth roughly $5 million per season.
He is due a base salary of $5 million this season, but releasing him now would clear about $3 million in cap space after roster displacement is factored in. Why isn’t it closer to $5 million? Because the prorated portion of his cap hit—from his original signing bonus—has to be accelerated into this year from both 2019 and 2020.
Still, the Steelers just traded a starting right tackle for a late sixth-round pick in other to clear under $5 million in cap space. Another $3 million-plus by getting rid of a backup safety in what is a very very deep safety market seems like a no-brainer. Ostensibly, you could potentially sign a better safety to serve as your dimebacker for that price.
Oh, and there was that whole Burnett wanting to be traded thing. Soon after the season ended, he complained to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN that he felt he was being used out of position in that dimebacker role.
Which is a fine take to have, but the only problem with it is that he would have been playing where he wanted to, at strong safety, had he not spent most of the offseason, even going back to the spring, watching from the sidelines because he was nursing a string of injuries.
Burnett missed a total of five games in 2018 due to injury and was limited in others. He missed so much time building up to the season opener that the coaching staff felt more comfortable starting the rookie Edmunds over him, before putting him in the starting lineup in Week Two.
He got injured in that game and missed the next four leading into the bye week. By that point, the ship had sailed. Now it’s time for Burnett to look for another home with a better opportunity at the age of 30, which might not be as easy in this deep market as it was last year.