Mandatory minicamps around the NFL should be coming to an end this week and when they do, we will be entering the slowest part of the offseason. That’s the part of the offseason where all sorts of weird content will be created with a lot of that being rankings and lists. Quite honestly, a good bit of that content will be trash. With this week not even over with, the NFL on CBS Twitter account tweeted out a short list on Thursday that is centered around the five teams that have allegedly spent the least amount of money spent on their offensive lines for the 2022 season. The Pittsburgh Steelers are listed last of the five teams mentioned at $23.7 million. Those rankings are silly, quite honestly, and I will explain why.
For starters, let it be known that the numbers used in this set of rankings constitute the total of all salary cap charges for offensive linemen currently under contract. That’s the first silly aspect of this list because salary cap charges are not a reflection of what a player really makes. The best guide for that is the players new money average of the deal that they are on.
So, why is using cap numbers faulty? Well, for starters, the Steelers signed two notable outside unrestricted free agents to three-year contracts earlier in the offseason in guard James Daniels and Mason Cole. In typical Steelers fashion, the team gave a sizable signing bonus and a smallish base salary to each player to purposefully keep the first-year cap charge low. If we want to look at each of those two signing from a cash perspective (base salary plus signing bonus), and not a cap perspective (base salary plus signing bonus proration amount), Daniels will earn $10 million in 2022 while Cole will earn $5.6 million. That’s much different than their respective 2022 cap charges of $4,166,666 and $2,556,666.
The Steelers also re-signed tackle Chukwuma Okorafor to a three-year contract earlier in the offseason. His cash output in 2022 is $10.5 million in 2022 while his cap charge is a mere $4,333,333. See the difference here? Just between Daniels, Cole and Okorafor, the Steelers spent $26.1 million in cash. The combined 2022 cap charges for those three players is just a mere $11,056,665.
With that CBS list only accounting for cap charges, it in turn penalizes teams that have drafted offensive linemen over the course of the last three seasons. The Steelers have three such offensive linemen in Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr. All three are obviously still on their rookie contracts with cap charges totaling $3,167,306. Thy couldn’t give any of those three players more money now if they wanted to because of CBA rules.
Two other Steelers offensive linemen currently under contract, Chaz Green and Trent Scott, both have salary charges less than they are scheduled to earn in 2022? Why is that? Because both were signed to veteran benefit deals that come with reduced cap charges as part of the CBA. So, the Steelers are essentially docked $280,000 when it comes to the CBS list because it works off cap charges. Green and Scott are both scheduled to earn $1.035 million in 2022 yet carry cap charges of just $895,000.
I just recapped eight of the Steelers 15 offensive linemen currently under contract. Understanding the silliness better now? Are we really going to dock the Steelers for the contract structures of these players? That’s what CBS is essentially doing.
Let me give you one more non-Steelers example that should blow a few minds.
While CBS does not show the top five teams in spending based on their criteria, I can tell you that the Detroit Lions are second overall at $50.6 million. Of that $50.6 million, tackle Taylor Decker accounts for $18,9 million as that is his cap charge. That’s 37.4% of the $50.6 million. Now, if the Lions were to do a full restructure on Decker’s contract to free up salary cap space for the 2022 season, which is totally plausible right now, his 2022 cap charge would drop by $10,473,750. That would put the Lions total offensive line cap total at $40,162,113 and this move them from 2nd overall to 12th overall on the silly CBS Sports list and all with a flick of a pen.
By the way, if all 15 Steelers offensive linemen currently under contract were to wind up making the 53-man roster (they won’t), the Steelers cash paid out in 2022 for all 15 would be $37,943,624.
Should the 2nd place Lions keep all 14 of their offensive linemen currently under contract on their 53-man roster (they won’), their total cash paid out for those 15 players would be $54,078,011. Two of those players, Decker and Frank Ragnow, account for $35,751,529 of that amount and that is because the latter had a second-year option bonus of $18 million due this year as part of the lucrative deal he had signed in 2021.