It seems that the Pittsburgh Steelers every year are among the names of the teams closest to the salary cap limit. That is not unintentional. The Steelers exercise an organizational belief that every resource possible should be committed to maximizing the team’s chances of winning every year, and that typically means spending close up to the salary cap.
The lone exception was in the past offseason, when they were able to go out and spend on the likes of Steven Nelson and Mark Barron and Donte Moncrief, easily the most significant free agent signing period they have had in some time. Nelson in particular was notable, commanding a per-year salary of $8.5 million over three years. That’s the highest they have ever given to an outside unrestricted free agent.
With Moncrief having already been released as a result of compensatory pick considerations, however, it’s widely believed that Barron could be next. The veteran, who was signed before the Steelers knew they would be able to trade up for Devin Bush, signed a two-year, $12 million contract, and they still have Vince Williams as well.
Pro Football Focus named Barron one of the 10 biggest names among the cut candidates for the 2020 offseason, and of course this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. We have talked about its likelihood several times already this offseason. But this is what Ben Linsey had to say:
Somehow, Barron earned a reputation as the stereotypical coverage linebacker in the NFL without ever managing to have an elite season in coverage. Over his career, Barron’s career-high coverage grade came with the Los Angeles Rams at 72.3 in 2016, but that fell off to 65.2 in 2017, 54.4 in 2018, and 53.9 with the Steelers this past season. Previous playing experience at safety doesn’t automatically qualify a player for being an above-average coverage linebacker, and Barron is proof of that. He played 750 snaps for the Steelers in 2019, nearly doubling the snap total of last year’s starting linebacker Vince Williams. Williams played well in his limited role this season with an overall PFF grade of 76.2 that ranked 11th among qualifying linebackers.
With one of the lowest marks in projected cap space entering 2020, the Steelers need to look hard at several veterans that could save them some room with releases. Barron is at the top of that list with Devin Bush and Williams capable of holding down the linebacker position.
It’s interesting to highlight the end note, in which the sites credits Williams, saying that he is capable of holding down the position along with Bush. The team wouldn’t have any proven depth if they release Barron, admittedly, but it could be a necessity to retain Bud Dupree.