The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 offseason is now underway as of Sunday evening and as usual, the team has quite a few big decisions awaiting them ahead of the official start of the new league year in March. Last year the team made a few key moves before the end of April as wide receiver Antonio Brown and tackle Marcus Gilbert were both traded away and safety Morgan Burnett and inside linebacker Jon Bostic were both cut. This offseason we’re sure to see a few more contracts terminated by the Steelers prior to the end of April and the four players listed below are the best candidates for such transactions.
OLB Anthony Chickillo – Chickillo, who was re-signed to a two-year, $8 million contract back in March, is sure to be gone from the Steelers roster by the time the 2020 new league year begins. The backup outside linebacker and former sixth-round draft pick out of Miami is scheduled to earn a roster bonus of $500,000 in 2020 in addition to a 2020 base salary of $4.5 million. While the Steelers would incur a dead money charge in 2020 of $1.0975 million by cutting Chickillo, the team would quickly clear $5 million in salary cap space prior to his roster displacement in doing so. While Chickillo is a good special teams player, he’s not worth $5 million to a Steelers team up against the salary cap in 2020. Chickillo played all of 143 defensive snaps in 2019 on his way to registering half a sack and 11 total defensive tackles. He also had 8 total special teams tackles in 2019.
ILB Mark Barron – Like Chickillo, Barron, who was signed to a two year, $12 million contract that included a $5.75 million signing bonus last March, is almost certain to be cut during the offseason and likely before the start of the 2020 new league year in March. Barron, who registered 82 total tackles and three sacks in 2019, is scheduled to earn a base salary of $4.5 million in 2020 in addition to a roster bonus of $750,000. While cutting Barron would create a 2020 dead money charge of $2.875 million for the Steelers, the team would still save $5.25 million in 2020 salary cap space prior to roster displacement by cutting ties with him this offseason. Barron is 30 years old now and his best football is long behind him. The Steelers effectively paid Barron $6.75 million in 2019 so they got their money’s worth overall. Hopefully young Steelers inside linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III can fill Barron’s spot in 2020.
G Ramon Foster – Was the Steelers Sunday regular season finale against the Baltimore Ravens the last game in black and gold for Foster? While none of us know for sure, there’s a good chance it was. And judging by Foster’s post-game comments, it appears he thinks it’s possible he’s let go during the offseason. Foster, who will turn 34 in January, is currently scheduled to earn $4 million in 2020 as part of the two-year, $8.25 million contract he signed last March that included a $3.15 million signing bonus. while the Steelers would incur a dead money charge of $1.575 million by cutting Foster in the offseason, the team would save $4 million in 2020 salary cap space prior to his roster displacement. Up until this season, Foster’s play has been very consistent and above-the-line. He also missed two more games this past season due to a concussion and that makes six games in total missed due to injury over the course of the last four seasons. In short, this offseason could mark the end of Foster’s time in Pittsburgh.
TE Vance McDonald – The Steelers are probably going to want to take a long, hard look at McDonald in the coming weeks to see if he’s worth retaining past the start of the new league year in March. McDonald, who caught 38 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns in 2019, is scheduled earn $6.4 million in base salary and bonuses in 2020. Not picking up his option for 2020 in March would result in the Steelers having a dead money charge of $1.455 million. However, the team would save $5.6725 million in 2020 salary cap space prior to roster displacement by moving on from McDonald by the time his option due date rolls around. McDonald missed two more games in 2019 due to injuries and has yet to play a full season since entering the NFL in 2013. With McDonald’s blocking also not being up to par in 2019, now might be the time for the Steelers to move on from him.