Matt Feiler recently signed his restricted free agent tender, which will pay him around $3.2 million for the 2020 season. This figures to be the last time that he makes such a low salary, at least for a while, if he is able to play his cards right and puts in the season that he is capable of producing.
Despite being just a fourth-year player, technically, Feiler is 28 years old (or will be in less than a month), having spent his first three seasons on practice squads. He has been a full-time starter for just one season, with 27 total starts in his career, 25 at right tackle and two at guard.
It’s not yet set in stone whether he will start at guard or tackle, but wherever he winds up, he can position himself for a strong payday in 2021, whether that comes from the Pittsburgh Steelers or elsewhere. And the way things currently look, it’s hard to see the Steelers being able to afford letting him go.
Alejandro Villanueva and Zach Banner will also be hitting the open market in 2021 unless the Steelers somehow working extensions with them between now and then, which is extremely unlikely. There will be many decisions to be made about the tackle position in a short amount of time. Even Chukwuma Okorafor is entering his third year on a four-year rookie contract.
Pittsburgh has already proven that it believes in Feiler, the best example of that being their decision to kick him inside to guard last year for one game to fill in for Ramon Foster while he was injured. It’s not that often that a coaching staff trusts an offensive lineman to start at either guard or tackle equally.
Much like Alejandro Villanueva’s situation, given that he got his first break later than most NFL starters, he will be sure to cash in when he gets the opportunity. Villanueva was able to get a four-year contract—even at a bargain rate—two years early as an exclusive rights free agent.
Feiler doesn’t have as much pull to have gotten a deal ‘early’, and in his case, the Steelers are also looking at Okorafor and Banner as their potential future. But the 2020 season will tell a lot about this entire group, and how much Feiler means to them—whether they can afford to let him go.
Either way, it likely means a payday for him. Either they can’t afford him, or they can’t afford not to have him. And he can’t afford to pass up the opportunity to cash in for his family. To date, he’s made a whopping $5.26 million in his career, and that’s including his salary from this year, which does not become guaranteed until the season begins. It’s time for his payday and he knows it.