There has been a lot of talk out there recently about the status of potential contract extension talks between Cameron Heyward and the Pittsburgh Steelers—because Cameron Heyward himself talked about it in a recent interview with The Athletic. His statement that he has to prepare himself for the possibility of not finishing his career in Pittsburgh drew headlines, though all of us here continue to urge you all to avoid the temptation of slapping the panic button on this one.
In light of the recent conversation, Ray Fittipaldo of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette hit up an agent from a local firm that represents NFL players, who confirmed that what Heyward had previously said is going on–namely, that teams are pumping the brakes on a lot of negotiations. He told Fittipaldo that they “were working on” an extension for his client, but “we had to put the brakes on it. Teams want to try and figure out if fans are going to be in the stands because that’s going to figure into how much money is out there. Next year we could be looking at a flat cap or one that’s going downward”.
Nothing that Greg Diulus has to say here is shocking. It’s rare for the Steelers to complete significant long-term extensions with even their stars—outside of the quarterback position—early in the offseason, so I don’t know that we can put much or even anything on the coronavirus on Heyward’s situation.
Perhaps under ordinary circumstances they would have at least maintained a loose dialogue over the course of the offseason, rather than completely putting it on pause, but without firsthand knowledge of the situation and their typical negotiating practices, we can’t really weigh in on that.
I wouldn’t go so far as Fittipaldo does, however. He actually suggests that the team could consider breaking their policy of not negotiating contracts once the regular season starts, which has been in place for a while now and instituted for good reason based on first-hand experience of doing just that. The inevitable result was other players wanting new contracts and being bitter.
Not that it’s a completely unreasonable idea or won’t be done. I don’t think that it will. I think an extension will be worked out prior to the start of the season. But the logic is there. The Steelers will have a much better feel for what the revenue flow looks like once the season is actually taking place, with a look toward what the cap situation in 2021 might be.
As Fittipaldo reminds us, the Steelers figure to lose over a third of their revenue for the year in the event that games are held without fans, which is over $150 million. This would be the ballpark average figure for all 32 teams, and that would affect next year’s cap.
While the league would likely work something out to prevent the cap from going down—at least remaining static—that does influence how you have to structure deals.