We are now right at two weeks away from the start of the 2021 NFL league year and with that, we still haven’t been told what the official salary cap number will be for the league. We are, however, already starting to see some serious bloodletting from teams across the league this week as part of the pre-new league year contract terminations. Those moves, according to one NFL insider on Wednesday, are expected to pick up soon.
Dianna Russini of ESPN tweeted Wednesday morning that she recently received an ominous text from an unnamed NFL head coach on what he expects to happen these next few weeks in the way of players being cut.
“it’s going to be a massacre next week all around the league, the text reportedly said, vis Russini.
Just texted with an NFL head coach about the upcoming cuts and what he expects…
“It’s going to be a massacre next week all around the league”
— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) March 3, 2021
Is Russini’s report surprising? Not at all. After all, the league’s salary cap number in 2021 is expected to be $185 million at the very most and possibly as low as $180 million. That’s down from $198.2 million in 2020. In short, that low of a cap number is sure to cost several middle-class players their jobs.
So far this week we have seen more teams cutting higher profile players to clear salary cap space. For example, the New York Jets on Tuesday released veteran defensive end Henry Anderson, who started 24 games for them over the past three seasons. Cutting Anderson saves the Jets $8.2 million in 2021 salary cap space. Additionally, it was reported on Tuesday that former New England Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy has been told he will be released by the Miami Dolphins before the start of the new league year.
So, are any Steelers players currently under contract at serious risk of becoming pre-new league year salary cap causalities? It’s possible but the list of players who would seemingly be candidates to be cut in the next two weeks is really short. In fact, a legitimate list would likely only include two defensive players, cornerback Joe Haden and inside linebacker Vince Williams.
The Steelers cutting Haden would be quite monumental and in reality, only save the team $6.34 million in 2021 salary cap space after roster displacement were to take place. While Haden carries a hefty 2021 salary cap charge of $15.575 million, he’s only scheduled to earn $7 million this coming season. That’s not a lot for a cornerback of his caliber. Who would the Steelers even replace Haden with? Cornerback Cameron Sutton, who has yet to be re-signed? I suppose it’s possible, but a first-year cap charge on Sutton, if re-signed, is likely to be more than $3 million.
As for Williams, he is probably more likely to get cut than Haden is. Even so, cutting Williams would only create $3.34 million in 2021 salary cap space for the Steelers after roster displacement were to take place. Williams, 31, is a lesser asset to the Steelers right now than Haden is. Haden, however, will turn 32 in April. The Steelers would likely have inside linebacker Robert Spillane take over Williams’ role should he not survive these next two weeks.
Is there any other player the Steelers might cut in the next two weeks that would equate to being surprise? One could probably make a great argument that fullback Derek Watt might be out the door in the next two weeks after a very disappointing first season in Pittsburgh in 2020. That said, the Steelers might just restructure his contract instead to clear an extra $880,00 in 2021 salary cap space. Cutting Watt, on the other hand, would save just $1,006,666 in 2021 salary cap space after roster displacement.
So, there you go. Haden, Williams, and Watt are probably the three names to watch for these next two weeks. That said, personally, I really don’t think Haden or Watt will be going anywhere. Williams, however, might be a different story.