Without knowing yet what the salary cap is going to look like around the league for the 2021 season—it could realistically be anywhere between $175 million and $200 million, though will most likely fall somewhere right in the middle—it’s difficult to know how much cap space anybody will have—or not have.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, for example, even if you project a salary cap of about $185-190 million, they would still be over the mark, even with the salaries of Vance McDonald and Maurkice Pouncey coming off the books following their announcements that they are retiring from the NFL, which alone saved them about $12 million in cap space.
Thus, with the uncertainties factored in, it’s hard to know how vulnerable any other players might be to being let go as salary cap casualties. We saw a number of players like Mark Barron and Anthony Chickillo let go last offseason when they were in a better spot.
The obvious thing to consider is the fact that they not only have to get under the salary cap, they also need to create a significant amount of additional space to re-sign a couple of their own free agents while also accommodating for a full 53-man roster and practice squad, and on top of that, leaving a cushion of several million for in-season needs that crop up.
Yes, they can create a few good chunks of additional cap space by restructuring the contracts of Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt and reworking Ben Roethlisberger’s deal, butt even then, we won’t know exactly where they land.
Not even when they get the salary cap figure in. Because we don’t know what their plans are as far as frere agency goes. Last year, they let go of people and then they signed Eric Ebron and Derek Watt and Stefen Wisniewski as outside free agents.
In other words, we don’t yet know if there will be any salary cap casualties. But if there is, a lot of people seem to be pointing to veteran linebacker Vince Williams as a likely candidate. Entering the final year of his contract with a $4 million base salary, he plays a role that Robert Spillane could also command.
Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is among the many who have referenced Williams, noting in a recent chat that “it’s a possibility” he could be let go, though he said that his preference would be for him to be brought back at a reduced rate. Given that he is only owed $4 million, I’m not sure they can swing that and keep him happy.
If the Steelers should find themselves in a situation in which they still need a few million more in cap space, however, Williams could become vulnerable. It all depends upon what the cap number is, and how ambitious their offseason plans are—as well as their confidence in the depth at the position.