Despite Small Class, NFL Has Been Very Interested In Steelers’ Unrestricted Free Agents

The Pittsburgh Steelers entered the 2020 offseason with only eight players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, which was among the fewest in the NFL. Of the eight, they re-signed one, or at least have attempted to, placing the franchise tag on five-year veteran outside linebacker Bud Dupree.

Of the seven remaining, six have already signed contracts with other teams, and at least five of those players have signed deals that qualify for the compensatory pick formula. We are still awaiting word on one of those contracts as of this writing to determine if it also qualifies, but if it does, the Steelers will be eligible for four compensatory picks in 2021.

Only a couple of other teams in the NFL have so far lost as many or more unrestricted free agent players who qualify for the compensatory pick formula so far, including the Dallas Cowboys, who have lost seven such players, and the Carolina Panthers, who have also lost six (five of which are cancelled out by incoming signings). The Chicago Bears and New England Patriots are the only other teams to have lost at least six free agents who qualify for compensatory picks so far.

As it currently stands, the Steelers are one of seven teams who are currently projected to earn at least three compensatory draft picks for 2021, though some of them are still pending as we await word on the terms of the contracts that have been signed.

For Pittsburgh, they are projected to earn a fourth-round pick for Javon Hargrave. The deals signed by Sean Davis, B.J. Finney, and Tyler Matakevich all qualify at the sixth-round level, and Nick Vannett’s qualifies at the seventh-round level, but the incoming additions of Eric Ebron and Derek Watt cancel out two of them.

The Steelers also signed Stefen Wisniewski, but annual per-year salary of his deal does not come high enough to qualify, averaging just $1.425 per season over two years. At the moment, the Steelers are in-line for a fourth-round pick and two sixths, but depending on Artie Burns’ one-year contract with the Bears, that could add at least another seventh-round pick.

As for the Patriots, right now, they are in shape to have another impressive haul, projected to add a third-round pick, two fourth-round picks, and a sixth-round pick. They have lost seven free agents, but have only signed three that qualify. Teams may only earn up to four compensatory picks in one season.

The Los Angeles Chargers are also in-line to possibly earn three picks right now, including a third-round pick for Philip Rivers, though one contract is yet to be determined, so it may only be two. The Cowboys right now stand to gain five picks, including a third and a fourth, but again, they can only get four. The Bears, Vikings, and Packers are the other teams currently projected to net at least three compensatory picks.

Considering the relatively small free agent class the Steelers had this year, and the somewhat dubious quality of it outside of Hargrave and Dupree, the possibility that they could field up to four compensatory picks is a nice little surprise. The only unsigned unrestricted free agent remaining is L.T. Walton, who was only signed after Stephon Tuitt was injured and was not on a 53-man roster.

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