When it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ plans for the 2020 offseason, the biggest thing discussed, perhaps outside of their intention to try to get Bud Dupree under contract in some form or fashion, is how they will have to go about paying for it.
The Steelers, as is tradition, are fairly up against the salary cap, and in order to create the space needed to get Dupree on the roster, especially if they have to go the franchise tag route, they will almost surely have to release some players.
The first name always mentioned is Mark Barron, who signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the team in free agency last year to start at inside linebacker. He did, even though they ended up drafting Devin Bush, relegating starter Vince Williams to a backup role, largely as a run-stuffer.
Barron is set to count over $8 million against the salary cap, however, in 2020. By releasing him, the team would save over $5 million in salary cap space. But Williams’ salary cap hit is similar, after all, and he played far fewer snaps, so why wouldn’t he be the one to be released?
For the first time anywhere in the media, I finally saw somebody suggest that Williams may be the one released instead of Barron. And it came from Gerry Dulac, who answered a question about that topic in a recent chat session. “I don’t know if it’s a better option”, he said, “but it might be a more likely option”.
Would it, though? The difference between Williams and Barron is that Williams is under contract through 2021. If you release him now with the idea of having that money available immediately, you’re only going to save less than a million in salary cap space.
That’s because he carries a prorated bonus figure of over $3 million (slightly more than Barron), both for 2020 and for 2021. If you release him now, that has to be accelerated into 2020. He has a base salary of $4 million, and no other bonuses, so with the accelerated signing bonus, it nearly wipes out the instant cap savings.
In short, the Steelers would gain just $968,332 in 2020 salary cap space prior to roster displacement by cutting Williams. After displacement, you’re talking about roughly just a half a million in salary cap space saved. That’s just not worth it.
The decision would then have to be about Barron, and how important a part of the defense he is. He did play extensively last year. But do they see him as that much of an upgrade to what they would get from Williams, and perhaps a combination of players? I’m thinking that’s unlikely.