Will the Pittsburgh Steelers sign any more unrestricted free agents this offseason? It’s hard to know for sure, but if they do, odds are good that any unrestricted players signed moving forward will be for minimum salaries and after Tuesday passes. Tuesday, in case you weren’t aware, is this year’s deadline for signed unrestricted free agents to count in the compensatory draft pick formula.
As things stand currently for the Steelers, they’re expected to receive a third-round compensatory pick in the 2020 NFL Draft as a result of what transpired this so far this offseason in regard to unrestricted free agents lost and gained.
Since free agency got underway in the middle of March, the Steelers have signed two qualified unrestricted free agents in cornerback Steven Nelson and wide receiver Donte Moncrief. Additionally, the Steelers have seen three of their own unrestricted free agents this offseason, running back Le’Veon Bell, tight end Jesse James and linebacker L.J. Fort, all sign with other teams. If you’re curious as to why the Steelers signing of linebacker Mark Barron isn’t listed as an unrestricted free agent gain for the Steelers, it’s because he was released by the Los Angeles Rams and signed with Pittsburgh as a street free agent.
Based on how the compensatory draft pick formula works, the Steelers signings of Nelson and Moncrief are currently expected to cancel out their losses of James and Fort. That should leave Bell as the lone registering loss for the Steelers and as Steve Korte of Over the Cap projects, Pittsburgh should receive a third-round compensatory pick in the 2020 NFL Draft should the balance sheet remain status quo. Obviously, if Fort were to get cut by the Philadelphia Eagles prior to the start of the 2019 regular season, or not stick on their roster most of the year, that could potentially change the 2019 compensatory value balance sheet in a negative way for the Steelers.
After the Steelers recently selected linebacker Devin Bush out of Michigan in the first-round of the 2019 NFL Draft, general manager Kevin Colbert explained that the decision to trade up 10 spots to get the player was somewhat based on the organization expecting to receive some sort of compensatory selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. That first-round trade up with the Denver Broncos to draft Bush cost the Steelers their first and second-round selections in this year’s draft and a third-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.
“So being able to do it with this year’s two and next year’s three, we believe at this point we’ll have some type of compensatory pick in 2020,” Colbert said not long after Bush was selected. “So that gives you a little bit more justification for trading away the future pick. Again, we’ll have a pick but we don’t know what it will be at this point, but we think we’ll get a pick. So hopefully it balances out to some equation.”
The NFL will not announce the compensatory picks awarded for the 2020 NFL Draft until well after the 2019 season is over and likely in late February.