The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 offseason is well underway and between now and the start of the NFL’s new league year in March the team has quite a to-do list. Below is a quick overview of that Steelers 2020 offseason to-do list.
Reserve/Future Signings – In the next several week the Steelers are likely to add several players to their offseason roster via Reserve/Future contracts. To date, the Steelers have already signed the 11 players that ended the 2019 season on the team’s practice squad to Reserve/Future contracts for 2020 in addition to running back Darrin Hall. Several more players will likely be added via those kinds of signings between now and the start of the new league year in March to help get the team to the offseason 90-man roster limit.
College All-Star Game Scouting – The 2019-2020 college season will come to a close on Monday night with the annual National Championship game and that contest will be quickly followed by the three major college all-star games, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl (Jan.18), the East-West Shrine Game (Jan. 18) and the Senior Bowl (Jan. 25). The Steelers will obviously have several members of their front office, coaching staff and scouting department on hand for these three annual college all-star games to get a closer look at the draft eligible players.
Roethlisberger Early February Elbow Checkup – Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin indicated at the conclusion of the 2019 regular season that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a medical checkup on his surgically repaired elbow sometime in early February that will provide more clarity as to how his rehab is going. “That will be significant in terms of mapping out what is next,” Tomlin said recently of Roethlisberger’s elbow rehab. “But that is a moving target.”
Franchise & Transition Tag Deadline – Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 10 is the deadline for Steelers to designate Franchise or Transition players via the tag. The prime candidate for such a tag this offseason for the Steelers is outside linebacker Bud Dupree. February 25 is the first day the Steelers can designate Franchise or Transition players.
Contract Terminations – There are likely to be a few contract terminations performed by the Steelers prior to the start of the new league year in March and leading the list of candidates to be jettisoned starting sometime around the middle of February and beyond are outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo, inside linebacker Mark Barron and guard Ramon Foster. Terminating the contracts of those three players would result in a combined 2020 salary cap savings of $14.25 million for the Steelers prior to roster displacement.
McDonald 2020 Option Decision – Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 18 the Steelers must decide whether they want exercise option for 2020 on tight end Vance McDonald. Should McDonald’s option for 2020 not be picked up by this date, he would then become an unrestricted free agent and thus be free to sign with another team.
Re-signing Of Any Unrestricted Free Agents – As usual, the Steelers have a nice list of players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in March. Currently, that list includes the likes of outside linebacker Bud Dupree, center B.J. Finney, cornerback Artie Burns, safety Sean Davis, defensive end L.T. Walton, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, tight end Nick Vannett, and inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich. The team seems to be determined to keep Dupree this offseason. If that’s ultimately the plan, can they get him signed to a contract extension prior to needing to place the franchise tag on him by the previously listed March 10 deadline? Probably not, but it is an option nonetheless that must be considered. Obviously, most of the players set to become unrestricted free agents in March will ultimately be allowed to hit free agency. Will, however, players such as Vannett and Matakevich be extended on the uber cheap prior to the start of the new league year in March? Maybe. Regardless, the Steelers will have until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 18 to keep any scheduled unrestricted free agent away from free agency via an extension. Most of the time the Steelers re-signing of scheduled unrestricted free agents happens at the 11th hour.
Issuance Of Restricted & Exclusive Rights Tenders – The Steelers have several players who are poised to become either restricted and exclusive rights free agents in March as part of their current contracts expiring. Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 18 the Steelers must submit qualifying offers to their scheduled restricted and exclusive rights free agents with expiring contracts to retain them. We’ve already seen a few of the Steelers scheduled exclusive rights free agents, safety Marcus Allen and outside linebacker Tuzar Skipper, reportedly re-sign and odds are good that center J.C. Hassenauer will sign a 2020 exclusive rights tender for the minimum in the near future as well. As for the team’s players set to become restricted free agents in March, long snapper Kameron Canaday, safety Jordan Dangerfield, tackle Zach Banner, tackle Matt Feiler and cornerback Mike Hilton, most of, if not all, will likely be restricted tendered at various levels prior to this year’s deadline.
Finish Any Needed Pre-New League Year Contract Restructures/Extensions – The Steelers might decide to restructure or extend the contracts of a few players currently under contract for 2020 prior to the start of the new league year in March should they need some immediate salary cap relief. However, the limits associated with the 30 percent rule in the NFL’s current CBA will make it challenging for the Steelers to find much in the way of serious salary cap savings in the form of restructures, at least through the usual way they perform them. Could we see defensive tackle Cameron Heyward sign a contract extension prior to the start of the new league year in March? It’s possible, but far from guaranteed to happen in that time frame.
Rule Of Top 51 Compliance – Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 18 the Steelers must be under the 2020 Salary Cap as that’s when the NFL’s Rule of 51 begins.