The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to get defensive tackle Cameron Heyward signed to a contract extension late Sunday, and that deal figures to have cleared $3.95 million in salary cap space. The team also recently restructured the contract of guard David DeCastro and that transaction cleared $3.85 million in 2020 cap space. So, is the team done now with their offseason business? Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette doesn’t necessarily think so.
Steelers might not be done signing another player to a new deal before season starts, per source.
— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) September 7, 2020
According to a Monday morning tweet by Dulac, the Steelers might not be done with contract extensions before the start of the 2020 regular season.
If Dulac winds up being correct, who would the Steelers wind up signing to an extension in the next week? Below is a list of the players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents after the 2020 season and as you can see, it’s easy to rule out several as possibly being extension candidates. Those easily ruled out are punter Jordan Berry, safety Jordan Dangerfield, defensive end Tyson Alualu, tackle Zach Banner, defensive end Chris Wormley, quarterback Joshua Dobbs and safety Sean Davis. You can also rule out outside linebacker Bud Dupree due to his deadline passing on July 15.
So, that leaves us tackle Alejandro Villanueva, running back James Conner, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, cornerback Cameron Sutton, guard Matt Feiler and cornerback Mike Hilton as the likeliest candidates to sign a contract extension this next week.
Honestly, it’s tough to choose who the favorite would be. If Smith-Schuster would sign a deal for $16 million per or less, it’s plausible that he could get done. Even so, Smith-Schuster is set to count $1,335,020 against the cap in 2020 so his charge would rise as a result of an extension and maybe even as much as $4-$5 million.
Villanueva sure is underpaid right now just as Heyward was prior to his new deal. Even so, would the team give him a fair market extension right now like they did Heyward? Could they make it work under this year’s cap just the same? Yes.
Sutton has barely played much on defense so they might want to see more from him before signing him to an extension. Sutton would also be better served waiting as well. The same could probably be said for Conner, who must show he can stay healthy a full season.
What about Feiler? Sure, I get that notion, but if the Steelers are planning on extending DeCastro next offseason and they hope Kevin Dotson can be a starting left guard, Feiler sort of becomes expendable in 2021, unless the plan is to move back to right tackle. It just does not feel like Feiler would be the one.
I think that leaves us with Hilton as the last one we haven’t covered. Just like Feiler, Hilton is set to play on a restricted tender this year of $3.259 million. Signing him to a fair market deal could be done where his 2020 cap charge barely moves.
So, after all that, who are the favorites for an extension before next Monday and in what order? I would go Hilton, Villanueva and then Smith-Schuster. Even so, I’m not totally convinced any more extensions will get done. We’ll find out soon enough, however.