As I wrote about earlier today, there is a very good chance that only Tyler Matakevich will remain from the 2016 NFL Draft class when the Pittsburgh Steelers take the field for the first snap in 2020. And that is significant, considering that class including three players who were starters as rookies: Artie Burns, Sean Davis, and Javon Hargrave.
Of the three, Hargrave is the only one who has attained his standing. Of the three, he is the only one who is likely simply going to be too expensive for the team to be able to hold on to. But we won’t know anything for sure for a few months yet, as he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March.
One thing that is pretty much assured is this: he will be allowed to test the open market. He is not going to be given an extension before he hits free agency. He is absolutely not going to be tagged, as anybody who has any idea what the tag number for a defensive tackle number would be should be well aware.
Will they even engage in meaningful negotiations with Hargrave, knowing what kind of market he is going to have from 4-3 teams? “I don’t know”, he told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review earlier this week. “I guess we will see in these next few months how it is and how it’s going to go.”
A third-round pick out of South Carolina State, a small-school FCS program, Hargrave has flourished as an interior defender. Over the past two years in particular, he has put up over 10 sacks, and has had great success winning one-on-one matchups. He is a better run defender than many understand, as well.
When it comes to Pittsburgh in particular, however, they already have a pair of $10 million defensive linemen, and they could potentially be looking to pay a pair of edge rushers $15 million-plus over the course of the next two offseasons. They can’t put Hargrave in that range. It’s simply impossible while also having the rest under contract. And before you know it, Minkah Fitzpatrick and others will need to be paid as well. Sometimes the financials just don’t line up.
“It’s not just about money; it’s more that it’s like a family to me”, Hargrave said of the prospect of leaving the Steelers to head to another organization in 2020. “I love being here, I am comfortable being here. But at the end of the day it’s business”. He added, “I think we all are going to take a step back and everybody will do what’s best for them”.
What’s best for the individual is often simple enough: go to the place that gives you the most money and the best opportunity. For a team with a salary cap and a 53-man roster, there are tons of other factors—like Bud Dupree, in this case—that go into it. As players often note, it’s a business.