There’s no way of getting around the fact that NFL rosters are cyclical in nature. Every year at a minimum, hundreds upon hundreds of new players enter the labor market for just 32 NFL teams, each of whom field 63 players per season, plus those on injured reserve and other non-active lists.
With hundreds of players drafted every year and just as many if not more coming in as undrafted free agents, it’s inevitable that some of the 2000-plus players with NFL contracts from the season before are going to lose their spots. Some teams see far more turnover than others on a regular basis.
As we get close to the draft, I want to do some risk assessment for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster based on their current needs and how they have handled them in free agency, compared to how they typically go about handling their business in the draft.
Asset: ILB Jon Bostic
Roster Vulnerability: Medium
Role Vulnerability: Medium
A year after signing a two-year deal with the Steelers with the anticipation that he would be starting, there is a very real possibility that Jon Bostic does not see the second year of his contract. In a continuing effort to restock the inside linebacker position following Ryan Shazier’s injury, Pittsburgh added Mark Barron this offseason in free agency on a two-year deal that averages $6 million per season.
Though the team did lose L.J. Fort in free agency, and did not retain Matthew Thomas, who spent most of 2018 on the 53-man roster, Bostic’s grip on a roster spot is still not rock solid. There is still Tyler Matakevich on the roster, who is a core special teams player, which Bostic simply is not.
If the Steelers add a player in the draft at inside linebacker, which seems to be a shoe-in, then that is going to place him down at fifth on the totem pole because of special teams, even though he would be expected to play on defense before Matakevich would. And that would necessitate, obviously, the team carrying five inside linebackers to keep him.
It’s also realistic that the Steelers could draft two inside linebackers, which they have certainly done before, and in that event, Bostic would have a very difficult time retaining his place on the team, and would essentially have to result in his unseating Matakevich, or simply playing so well that it forces the team to keep six inside linebackers, which, though very rare, has been done.
Doing him no favors is his cap hit, or more accurately, his base salary. He is set to earn $1.8 million this season while counting $2.5 against the cap. The team would save the entirety of his base salary, minus displacement, if he fails to make the team.