What A Contract Extension For Steelers DL Cameron Heyward Could Look Like

Will the Pittsburgh Steelers get defensive lineman Cameron Heyward signed to a contract extension by the start of the 2020 regular season? It’s hard to answer that question with full confidence but at least we only have 29 days to find out the answer just the same. If the Steelers are ultimately able to get Heyward signed to a contract extension in the next four weeks, below is my best guess at what such a deal might look like.

For starters, as of Sunday, Heyward is set to earn just $9.5 million in 2020 and his current annual value is $10,456,200, which is ranked 20th in the NFL for all interior defensive linemen on the heels of the new deal signed on Saturday by Green Bay Packers nose tackle Kenny Clark, who is now fourth on the list.

Personally, I have Heyward’s new money average market value just a tad higher than Clark’s $17.5 million, at $17.625 million. With Heyward still being owed $9.5 million in old money, a four-year contract extension that resulted in a new money average of $17.625 million would need to total out at $80 million over the five-years, meaning the new money total amount would need to be $70.5 million.

Based on the history of the way the Steelers usually like to do big deals, Heyward would need roughly $21 million in 2020 earnings to fit such an extension rough outline. Such an extension and first-year cash flow would likely require him receiving a signing bonus of at least $16 million. The rest of the $21 million would come in the form of his base salary and roster bonus. Based on those example amounts, Heyward’s new 2020 salary cap charge would be $12,051,250, which would be $1.2 million less than his currently scheduled charge of $13,251,250.

The cash flow schedule needed to get a deal done such as this would likely include Heyward pocketing around $36 million through 2021 and around $51 million through 2022. Obviously, his contract would likely need to be restructured come March to help the Steelers free up some much-needed salary cap space and that shouldn’t be an issue. The layout below would allow for a max restructure in March that would free up $10,443,750 in 2021 salary cap space.

Even if Heyward were to give the Steelers a discount of sorts, I can’t see him accepting a new money average of less than $16.75 million, which would make him the seventh highest paid interior defensive lineman in the NFL. When added to his old money amount of $9.5 million, that would make the five years of his four-year extension total out at $76.5 million.

Personally, I can’t see how the Steelers can expect Heyward to play in 2020 for a mere $9.5 million and I certainly can’t see the team wanting to be in a position come February where they would have to put the franchise tag on him to keep him away from free agency.

If not for coronavirus pandemic this year, a fair market contract extension with Heyward would likely have already been completed. Concerns about the 2021 salary cap aside, I think the Steelers will still do everything they can to get Heyward signed to an extension in the next four weeks. Assuming that’s what transpires, I would expect the new money part of such an extension to come in between $67 and $70.5 million.

Cameron Heyward Five-Year, $80 Million Contract Projection (Four-Year, $70.5 Million Extension)

Year Base Salary Bonus Proration Roster Bonus Cap Charge Cash Flow
2020 $1,500,000 $7,051,250 $3,500,000 $12,051,250 $21,000,000
2021 $9,500,000 $3,300,000 $5,500,000 $18,300,000 $36,000,000
2022 $15,000,000 $3,300,000 $0 $18,300,000 $51,000,000
2023 $14,000,000 $3,300,000 $0 $17,300,000 $65,000,000
2024 $15,000,000 $3,300,000 $0 $18,300,000 $80,000,000
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