Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers have their entire 2019 draft class under contract the team figures to be left with just under a million in available salary cap space. That fact, in turn, somehow has several people freaked out for whatever reason. Quite honestly, if you didn’t see the Steelers being right up against the salary cap at this point of the offseason then you probably just awakened from a coma, or you must be a new fan of the team.
While the Steelers are currently severely up against this year’s cap number, the team probably has at least one contract restructure that will get done in the near future. The likely candidates for contract restructures are defensive linemen Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, offensive linemen David DeCastro and Alejandro Villanueva and tight end Vance McDonald. Of that group of five players, Heyward is probably the most likely to be the one that gets restructured if only one of them gets done.
While Heyward has already had his contract restructured twice since he signed it in 2015, there’s currently no reason to think that such a cap-freeing maneuver with him won’t happen again later this summer. While Heyward currently only has two seasons remaining on his contract, the Steelers can free up $3.91 million in 2019 salary cap space by restructuring it to the max allowed this summer. In short, the Steelers would turn $7.82 million of the $8.75 million base salary that Heyward is scheduled to earn in 2019 into a signing bonus and that would result in a cap savings this year of $3.91 million.
Another result of a Heyward max restructure this summer would be his currently scheduled 2020 cap charge of $13.25125 million increasing to a loftier $17.16125 million. If that high number has you running off scared again, keep in mind that Heyward, assuming he stays healthy and wants to play well into his 30s, will likely be signed to another extension at some point next offseason. Such an extension would likely result in Heyward’s post 2019 full restructure cap charge of $17.16125 million dropping by at least $4.5 million and maybe more.
Should the Steelers choose to leave Heywards contract alone the remainder of the summer, they could restructure the contract or contracts of the other four players I mentioned earlier in the post, Tuitt, DeCastro, Villanueva or McDonald. Restructuring Tuitt’s contract to the max allowed would free up $6,146,250 in 2019 salary cap space while a full restructure of DeCastro’s contract would free up $4,093,333 in space. Villanueva and McDonald full contract restructures, on the other hand, would free up$2,097,500 and $2,363,333, respectively.
Restructures, however, aren’t the only way the Steelers can free up some salary cap this summer. As I wrote about not long ago on the site, the Steelers can potentially free up some 2019 salary cap space this summer should they sign cornerback Joe Haden to a contract extension. Offensive lineman B.J. Finney and defensive lineman Javon Hargrave are two other players that could realistically sign new deals this offseason and the results of those could also produce some minuscule 2019 salary cap savings, depending on how they are structured.
The Steelers will probably want to go into the 2019 regular season with around $5 million in available salary cap space to use as injury protection. They’ll get there fairly easy with at least one contract restructure likely being done. Such a restructure might not get done until right before the regular season starts, however, as both previous Heyward restructures were done very late in the preseason.
In the meantime, a million dollars in salary cap space can still go a long way and especially if any veterans signed moving forward agree to one-year minimum salary benefit deals. If you were planning on the Steelers signing any free agents for more than the minimum later this summer, you obviously haven’t been paying too close attention to how the team has mainly operated the last 20 years.