With Salary Cap Still Tight, Daniel McCullers’ Status For 2020 Season Could Be Called Into Question

The Pittsburgh Steelers may have just acquired a new defensive lineman via trade, but that most certainly does not mean that they are done with the position this offseason. In fact, if probably hardly even moves the needle at all as it concerns their interests at this spot in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft.

With the departure of Javon Hargrave in free agency, the Steelers still have a vacancy at the starting nose tackle job. Neither Isaiah Buggs, entering his second season, nor Chris Wormley, whom they just acquired from the Baltimore Ravens, fit the mold of the position, but it’s possible one of them could be asked to add weight to serve as the number two.

In the Wormley trade, the Steelers are also picking up his $2,133,000 base salary, which is roughly a $1.5 million cap hit after roster displacement. That’s a fairly sizable hit given their salary cap situation, even after having already restructured the contracts of six highly notable players.

Meanwhile, there is Daniel McCullers sitting there with a $1.5 million base salary for the 2020 season. Over six seasons, the former sixth-round pick has amassed a mere 605 career snaps, registering 41 tackles and two and a half sacks. On 131 snaps in 2019—his most since 2016—he recorded just eight tackles, none for a loss, and a pass defensed.

Even though he is currently the only true nose tackle on the roster, could he potentially be a salary cap casualty, at least pending what they are able to do to address the position during the draft?

I wouldn’t necessarily bet my money on it. For one thing, we have been speculating about McCullers’ tenuous grasp on a roster spot for several years now, to the point at which it is bordering on an annual tradition, and yet every year, he’s there.

It’s also worth noting that, on the eve of the start of the new league year, Steelers president Art Rooney II said that he anticipated the team would be done with their releases. By that point, they released Mark Barron, Anthony Chickillo, and Johnny Holton, with Ramon Foster retiring. Roosevelt Nix, who asked for it, was subsequently granted his release, after they signed another fullback in free agency.

But the addition of another defensive lineman via trade with a division rival is a variable Rooney would not have foreseen. They were able to address a need prior to reaching the draft. So the question remains, will McCullers be vulnerable moving forward? Or is the fact that he is the only true nose currently on the roster enough to shield him? They wouldn’t reap huge savings by letting him go—round $890,000—but it’s more than nothing, and would ease some of the burden of Wormley’s contract.

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