The Pittsburgh Steelers now have their initial 53-man roster set for the 2019 season so now is as good as time as any to look at the players currently included in that group who are set to become free agents in 2020 in addition to the two players currently on their Reserve lists.
Unrestricted Free Agents:
OLB Bud Dupree – Dupree is playing the 2019 season under the fifth-year option that was attached to his rookie contract that the Steelers chose to pick up. After the 2019 season, it’s doubtful that the Steelers will use the franchise or transition tag on Dupree and doubtful that they re-sign him to a new contract prior to the start of the 2020 league year in March. In short, expect Dupree to hit free agency next March and ultimately sign with another team. Obviously, him leaving that way would result in some sort of compensatory draft value for 2021.
DT Javon Hargrave – It’s a shame that 2019 is likely to be the last season for Hargrave in Pittsburgh. The team’s former third-round draft pick looks poised to have a great 2019 season and reap the rewards of that via free agency next March. The only way the Steelers can prevent him from going to market is to franchise tag Hargrave but as we sit here in early September it just doesn’t seem like they will ultimately go that route. Should he fly away next March at a very lucrative price, the Steelers will obviously reap great 2021 compensatory draft value as part of that exodus.
CB Artie Burns – The Steelers decided not to pick up Burns’ fifth-year option this past offseason and that wasn’t a huge surprise. While the former first=-round draft pick is being allowed to play out the final year of his rookie contract, he’ll do so as a backup and special teams contributor. Burns will undoubtedly be allowed to test free agency in March, and it won’t be surprising to see him sign a low value deal with another team so that he can shoot for a fresh start.
S Sean Davis – Davis is being allowed to play out his rookie contract this season and that means he’ll likely be playing for a different team in 2020. If he has a solid 2019 season, he’ll be even harder to re-sign before the start of the new league year.
C/G B.J. Finney – Tendered restricted free agent this year, Finney will be unrestricted next March. Might the Steelers be able to re-sign before the start of free agency? It’s possible. Finney will obviously likely want to stay in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers might not be able to afford him and especially if guard Ramon Foster stays on one final season. It will be interesting to see how things play out with Finney prior to the start of the new league year in March. While he hasn’t played a ton since entering the NFL, Finney has represented himself well when he has been on the field and especially at guard.
TE Xavier Grimble – While Grimble was restricted tendered this past offseason, it’s hard to imagine him being back in 2020 for much more than the minimum. In short, look for 2019 to be Grimble’s final season in Pittsburgh.
ILB Tyler Matakevich – The Steelers special team ace is now in the final year of his rookie contract. Unless he’s willing to re-sign for the minimum next offseason and be willing to compete for a roster spot next summer, 2019 could be Matakevich’s final year in Pittsburgh. He’s a great special teams player, however, so might be able to play at least one more season elsewhere in 2020.
ILB Ryan Shazier – After having his contract toll this past offseason following him spending all of 2018 on the teams Reserve/PUP list, Shazier might face a monumental decision in early 2020. Will he be healthy enough to resume his NFL career by March? That’s not a question I can answer. Regardless, Shazier is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next March. If healthy enough to resume his career, he’ll obviously re-sign with the Steelers. If not, he might decide to retire.
Restricted Free Agents:
T Matt Feiler – Entering the 2019 regular season Feiler is set to be the team’s starting right tackle. He can also play both guard spots in a pinch as well. At worst, Feiler should receive a low-level restricted tender from the Steelers next offseason. At most, he will receive a second-round restricted tender if the Steelers fear losing to another team without any compensation via an offer sheet.
CB Mike Hilton – Hilton was hoping to sign a contract extension this past offseason as an exclusive rights free agent but that wound up being too ambitious on his part. Hilton is at the Steelers mercy next offseason as the team can easily restricted tender him at a second-round level if they need to. Hilton’s quality of play in 2019 will play a big role in deciding what level of restricted tender he receives.
T Zach Banner – Banner is poised to be the Steelers ninth offensive lineman in 2019 and that means he’s likely to be inactive most of the season barring injuries. Assuming he doesn’t see much of any playing time in 2019, Banner should be able to be retained via a lower level restricted tender.
LS Kameron Canaday – If Canaday does his job properly in 2019, he should receive a minimum restricted tender from the Steelers next offseason.
S Jordan Dangerfield – The Steelers longtime backup safety hasn’t played much on defense since first arriving in Pittsburgh. That noted, Dangerfield is a fine special teams player and like Matakevich, that will once again be his primary role in 2019. Will Dangerfield be worth issuing a low-level restricted free agent tender prior to next March? I king of doubt it.
Exclusive Rights Free Agents:
S Kameron Kelly – Kelly, who signed with the Steelers this past April, is poised to be the team’s starting free safety for the 2019 regular season opener due to Davis being sidelined with an ankle injury. Assuming the former undrafted free agent and one-week AAF star stays on the Steelers roster all season, he’ll be easily retained via an exclusive rights tender for the minimum amount. Kelly might just wind up being the Steelers week-one starting free safety in 2020 as well and especially if Davis leaves via free agency.
DE Lavon Hooks – Hooks is currently on the Steelers Reserve/Injured list recovering from Achilles surgery. He had previously been on the Steelers practice squad the last two seasons so this might be the end of the line for him. While Hooks can easily be retained next offseason with a minimum exclusive rights tender, it’s hard to envision that happening as we sit here in September.