Based on several reports so far this summer, the Pittsburgh Steelers will sign cornerback Joe Haden to a contract extension prior to the start of the regular season. Assuming that deal ultimately gets done, will the Steelers also wind up signing at least one more player to an extension in the next four weeks? As of Tuesday morning, it certainly does sound like there’s a good chance of that happening.
According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Tuesday, Steelers defensive tackle Javon Hargrave will be “next at the checkout counter” after the team gets an extension done with Haden.
Hargrave, who was originally drafted by the Steelers in the third-round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of South Carolina State, is now in the final year of his rookie contract. Due to him qualifying for the league’s Proven Performance Escalator in his first three seasons in the NFL, Hargrave, who registered a career-high 6.5 sacks last season to go along with 49 total tackles, which was also a career-high for him, is currently scheduled to earn a base salary in 2019 of $2.025 million.
The biggest question in regard to Hargrave and him possibly signing a contract extension between now and the start of the 2019 regular season revolves mainly around what his annual per year worth is in new money. While he hasn’t been an every-down player with Steelers since being drafted, that’s mainly due to the Steelers being a 3-4 defense at the core. If the Steelers ran a traditional 4-3 defense, Hargrave could likely easily function as an interior defensive tackle and thus his playing time would be much greater.
Because of Hargrave being a fit for both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses, he likely would cash in next offseason as an unrestricted free agent should he be allowed to test the market. He and his agent are probably well-aware of that fact and thus the Steelers will likely need to pay him this summer as a top-15 or higher 4-3 defensive tackle in order to get him signed to an extension.
According to Over the Cap, Eddie Goldman of the Chicago Bears is currently the highest paid 3-4 defensive tackle with a new money average of $10.510 million. Way, way behind him in second place on that list of 3-4 defensive tackles is Corey Peters of the Arizona Cardinals with a new money average of $4 million. On the site’s list of 4-3 defensive tackles, however, there are currently nine players with a new money average of $10 million or greater. Additionally, on their overall list of combined interior defensive linemen there’s currently 18 players with a new money yearly average of $10 million or greater. Included in that list of 18 players are Steelers defensive linemen Cameron Heyward ($10.4562 million) and Stephon Tuitt ($12 million).
Hargrave’s market value right now to the Steelers could be somewhere between $10-$11 million. If true, he could potentially become the highest-paid 3-4 defensive tackle in the league in the next month and in the process easily wind up ranked in the top-20 highest paid defensive linemen in the NFL. If I’m Hargrave’s agent, I’m advising the player to demand at least a $10-$11 million new money average from the Steelers this next month as that would likely be his bottom floor worth should he have another solid season in 2019 and be allowed to hit free agency next March.
When it comes to 2019 salary cap space, signing Hargrave to a lucrative extension can be worked with. Currently, the Steelers have $4,881,218 in available 2019 salary cap space and another $3 million or so of space might become available should an extension ultimately get done with Haden.
The Steelers hate to let very good players get away from them and Hargrave certainly falls into that classification. Will they ultimately get an extension worked out with him in the next four weeks? We’ll have to wait and see but it certainly is sounding more and more like such a transaction will come to fruition before the start of the 2019 regular season.