Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers have signed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and center Maurkice Pouncey to contract extensions this offseason, will any other players currently under contract get new deals at some point between now and the start of the 2019 regular season? The answer to that question is probably, yes, and especially when it’s taken into account that the Steelers probably want to get backup offensive lineman B.J. Finney, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and slot cornerback Mike Hilton all signed to new deals.
Those three players, along with safety Sean Davis being a possible contract extension candidate this offseason, all shouldn’t be too expensive to re-sign, however, and thus that’s why it’s a good bet that one or more of them ultimately ink extensions this summer. The bigger question, perhaps, centers around whether or not veteran cornerback Joe Haden will sign a contract extension this summer and it’s a question that was recently asked of Bob Labriola of steelers.com.
After being asked if he’s heard anything about any contract extension talks with Haden happening, Labriola responded with the answer below:
“I don’t believe the Steelers have sufficient salary cap space left to do an extension for Joe Haden this summer, but I also believe the team values him for his play on the field and for the calming influence and leadership he contributes to a secondary made up of mostly younger players. I also believe this: Haden came into the league as a top 10 pick and as a result has been paid top dollar throughout his NFL career, and so at this point the most important thing to him is the winning and annually competing for a championship. Not that the Steelers would suddenly offer him nothing but the veteran minimum, nor would Haden give up fair compensation to stay here, but this seems to be the kind of arrangement that both sides are interested in maintaining. Maybe I’m delusional, but I wouldn’t be really worried if there was no extension for Haden this summer, because the Steelers value him and he likes playing here. As long as that remains the case, the other stuff will get worked out.”
First, Labriola is seemingly correct when he surmises that both the Steelers and Haden likely want to get something done contractually at some point during the remainder of this offseason, or after the 2019 season is over. Moving on from there, Labriola stating that the Steelers don’t have sufficient salary cap space left in 2019 to do a contract extension with Haden should probably be considered off the mark and especially with the veteran cornerback currently slated to count $11,916,668 against the team’s cap this year.
Should the Steelers ultimately work out a contract extension with Haden this offseason, and one that includes a new money average of $13 million per year, which would put the cornerback in the top 10 highest-paid at his position, they could keep his current 2019 salary cap charge of $11,916,668 unchanged if the new deal includes $15 million being paid out this year via base salary and signing bonus combined. Such a new deal would likely include a 2020 roster bonus due in March that would essentially serve as an option. And if a max signing bonus of $7.5 million were part of a two-year extension, the Steelers could get out of it after the 2020 season with only $2.5 million in dead money should they need to.
Obviously, an extension for Haden, depending on the amount of new money given and overall structure, could also result in Haden’s current cap charge of $11,916,668 decreasing some. That said, if a 2019 decrease in Haden’s salary cap charge were to be a result of a contract extension, don’t expect it to be a big one.
Would Haden go for a two-year extension that would include around $26 million in new money on top of the $10 million he’s already scheduled to earn in 2019? If paid $15 million in 2019 to essentially sign such an extension, why wouldn’t he? It makes sense to get the deal done this summer if both sides want and expect their relationship with each other to continue past 2019.
If, however, the Steelers want to take a wait-and-see approach with Haden, they could always let him play out the 2019 season and then decide if they want to put the franchise tag on him next February. The early projected franchise and transition tag amounts for cornerbacks next offseason are $16.486 million and $14.604 million, respectively, according to Over the Cap. So if the Steelers want to pay Haden roughly $26.5 million over the next two seasons after first seeing how he plays in 2019, they could certainly choose to go that tag route instead of paying him roughly $15 million in 2019 and another 11.5 million or so in 2020 to lock him up through 2021.
So, how do I think things will ultimately work out the remainder of this offseason between the Steelers and Haden when it comes to his contract? Because of how the numbers potentially shake out, I really could see it going either way with Haden. Personally, I think a new money average of $13 million on a two-year extension should be the most the Steelers should spend if they decide they want to get Haden locked up through 2021. However, being as it would essentially cost the Steelers the same amount of cash over the next two seasons by letting Haden play out his current contract and then franchise tagging him next offseason, I won’t be surprised if they take route, either.
The biggest potential surprise down the road at this point will be Haden not being in a Steelers uniform in 2020. For that to happen, either his play would need to fall off drastically in 2019 or he would need to suffer a very serious injury of some sort. Obviously, we hope neither of those two things happen.