Will the Pittsburgh Steelers get defensive lineman Cameron Heyward signed to a contract extension before the start of the 2020 regular season? While that certainly could happen, as of Friday, it doesn’t sound like any progress has been made in contract negotiations, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.
“I thought we’d be further along in the process. In a normal year, we might be,” Michael Perrett of Element Sports Group, Heyward’s agent, told ESPN. “The current situation (with the pandemic) has led to a lot of uncertainty, but NFL business is still moving forward. Cam would love to retire a Steeler, but at this point, he just doesn’t know how all of this is going to play out.”
According to Fowler’s Friday report, the Steelers and Heyward and his representation have had broad discussions about the defensive lineman’s future past 2020 but in no particular terms.
Despite Heyward’s uncertainty concerning his contract right now, Fowler reported on Friday that the Steelers defensive captain has no plans to hold out. Really, Heyward has no grounds to hold out because he’s under contract through the 2020 season at a base salary of $9.5 million. Even so, it’s understandable that Heyward doesn’t want to enter the regular season not knowing if he’ll be a member of the Steelers in 2021.
While he is now 31 years of age, Heyward’s still very much on top of his craft and is easily currently considered one of the top five interior defensive linemen in the NFL. He was a Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro selection again last season and showed no signs of losing ground to Father Time.
Heyward’s market value right now should be around $17.5-$18.5 million per season and that means a four-year extension could wind up in the neighborhood of $80 million when his $9.5 million in old money is included.
The biggest drawback right now in extending Heyward is the uncertainty in the 2021 salary cap number that the coronavirus pandemic has produced. Teams found out last weekend that the 2021 cap floor will be $175 million, but that it could come in higher than that depending on final 2020 season league revenues.
The Steelers usually don’t like to discuss contract with players once a regular season gets underway. While they certainly could alter that policy this season and blame it on the pandemic, odds are probably good that they won’t.
Should the Steelers ultimately not sign Heyward to an extension this season, he would likely become an unrestricted free agent in March if the team doesn’t place the franchise tag on him. While the two sides could hammer out a new deal after the 2020 season is over with and before the 2021 franchise tag deadline, odds of that happening are very slim.
The Steelers just started their 2020 training camp this past week so there’s still 45 days remaining until the team’s Monday night regular season opener. That’s plenty of time to get an extension with Heyward done.
While things might sound bleak in regard Heyward as we enter the month of August, I’ll still be surprised if the Steelers don’t ultimately get Heyward signed to an extension by the start of the regular season. After all, can any of you imagine 2020 being Heyward’s last season in Pittsburgh with the Steelers? I know I certainly can’t.