The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers should make heavy use of restructures if they are not bound by the 30 percent rule.
Explanation: For those who have not been following along, the 30 percent rule is a stipulation that governs seasons in which the Collective Bargaining Agreement is expiring, which limits how much a team can restructure contracts. The Steelers’ primary tool for creating cap space is restructures, so if the CBA passes, they will have that available to them, and using it could save them from cutting some players or allow them to retain or sign others.
When you’re talking about a team with perhaps at best a two-year window to win a championship—and that’s before we even know if Ben Roethlisberger can be a championship quarterback in 2020 and beyond—it behooves you to take every opportunity you can to better your team every year on a short-term basis.
Restructuring contracts is the way to do that this offseason. Tagging Bud Dupree is a given, but that will come with consequences. Some of those consequences can be mitigated through restructures. It could save the jobs of players like Vance McDonald and Zach Banner, maybe allow them to retain a B.J. Finney or Nick Vannett. They can’t afford to gut the depth, but they also can’t afford to lose Dupree. In order to accomplish both, the only way is through restructures.
Much of the business that would be done is borderline desirable, as it is. I don’t know that players like Anthony Chickillo and Ramon Foster wouldn’t be released this offseason regardless of the salary cap situation.
And of course, every penny that you create in 2020 is pushed back into 2021 and beyond. In this particular case, almost all of the restructure candidates only have two years left on their deals, so they could push upwards of about $27 million in additional cap burden into next season. This is never desirable, even if it means having the ability to use that cap space in the present, and should only be treated as a last resort.
The depth could be saved by simply moving on from Dupree, and signing a more affordable option in free agency like Markus Golden. Of course, we basically pretty much already know the team isn’t going to do this, though, so that aspect is hardly worth discussing.