While the salary cap number came in slightly lower than was expected—and it was reported that owners were disappointed to learn what the actual number would be—it is worth reminding that within the new CBA is an extra $1.25 million that can largely make up the difference, provided that teams use it.
One of the issues that the NFLPA is always grappling with is how to work on helping veteran players on the margins and lengthening their careers. Too often, ‘older’ labor is phased out in favor for cheaper, younger players. The qualifying contracts for players given minimum salaries helped that some. Now there is a new Veteran Salary Benefit.
Starting immediately, teams may now re-sign up to two of its own players, who have had at least four seasons of credited experience, to contracts beyond the minimum, for which they can receive a maximum of $1.25 million in total for both contracts in salary cap credit.
In other words, if the Steelers were to re-sign B.J. Finney to a one-year contract worth $2.16 million, for example, they would only receive a salary cap charge of $910,000 for him instead. That is the minimum salary for a player of four accrued seasons. The minimum salary of all players is now $610,000, so after roster displacement, should the Steelers sign Vannett to the contract stated above, it would only move the salary cap up by $300,000.
Only the team for whom the player last played would be able to exercise this Veteran Salary Benefit, so if Vannett were to sign the same contract with another team, they would be charged the entire value of the deal. This would also help the team retain Tyler Matakevich, though not Nick Vannett.
In the terms of the new CBA, a “Four-Year Qualifying Player” is defined specifically as “a player with four or more Credited Seasons whose contract with a Club has expired after four or more years of continuous, uninterrupted service with that Club”. The Steelers only acquired Vannett via trade last year. This also would not help with L.T. Walton, though it’s hard to imagine he would get any more than the minimum anyway, which has a separate Veteran Salary Benefit.
This new part of the CBA is to help veteran players who earn more than the minimum salary, and Finney is obviously one of those. Matakevich could be another. But regarding Finney, there will still be a problem, because this only stipulates the allowance of one-year contracts.
Presumably, he will be looking for a multi-year deal, though a one-year tryout as a full-time starting left guard with the opportunity to sign another contract in 2021 could be an option that is appealing to him as well, and in the meantime, it would save the Steelers from taking a bigger cap hit.