The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t receive any compensatory draft picks this offseason, but even before this year’s free agency period gets underway, the early speculation is that they will potentially be awarded something a little less than a year from now.
Nick Korte, the compensatory formula wizard of Over the Cap, recently did a breakdown of each NFL team’s 2020 compensatory pick potential and he has the Steelers listed as “High.”
“This will finally be the year that Le’Veon Bell hits the open market. With the Steelers choosing not to trade him earlier, all that’s left now for possible compensation in return is a 3rd round comp pick,” Korte writes. “With 13 other players with expiring contracts, the Steelers are well positioned to ensure they get a comp pick for Bell even if they do acquire compensatory free agents of their own. Players to go along with Bell like Jesse James and Ramon Foster should help that cause.”
Obviously, what running back Le’Veon Bell ultimately signs for soon will play a big part in the Steelers 2019 compensatory balance sheet. Amusing he gets a deal that many expect he will in the coming weeks, the Steelers should be on the books for a third-round compensatory draft pick value right at the start of the free agent signing period.
As Korte points out, the other two higher profile unrestricted free agents of the Steelers set to hit the market, tight end Jesse James and guard Ramon Foster, could each wind up signing decent-sized contracts with other teams if they don’t re-sign with Pittsburgh.
There’s already been reports that both the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars might be interested in signing James and the Steelers giving fellow tight end Xavier Grimble a restricted free agent tender this week could be taken as a sign that they don’t expect their former fifth-round draft pick out of Penn State to be back in 2019.
As for Foster, it will be interesting to see what kind of free agent market awaits him at his age. You know he wants to re-sign with the Steelers if at all possible but if he gets a significantly better deal from another team, he might just take it. If Foster does sign elsewhere, that should add even more compensatory draft pick value to the 2019 offseason Steelers ledger.
The rest of the Steelers soon-to-be unrestricted free agents aren’t really all that attractive and thus shouldn’t be in high demand. If any of those remaining players set to hit free agency as unrestricted types do ultimately sign with another team, it likely will be for very cheap and maybe even after the qualifying signing period to count the compensatory formula ends.
Obviously, how active the Steelers are when it comes to the outside unrestricted free agents they sign this offseason will factor into the compensatory formula. Should, for example, they sign a few medium-priced unrestricted free agents this offseason, such signings could effectively cancel out a few of there own signing elsewhere. The Steelers could be a little more active in free agency this offseason due to them having a little bit more salary cap space than they normally do at this time of the offseason. That said, I wouldn’t expect them to make many “splash” signings. Perhaps we’ll see volume over high quality like we did several years ago.
In summation, barring the Steelers going crazy in free agency in the next few weeks, and assuming that Bell gets his expected big deal and James signs with a different team for a decent amount, perhaps at this same time next year we’ll be talking about the team being awarded a third-round compensatory selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, at the very least.