Deep Dive Into Salary Cap Impact, Contract Details, Financials Related To Steelers’ Tuesday Trades

The Pittsburgh Steelers were surprisingly very active at the 2022 NFL deadline and that Tuesday activity included them dealing away one player in wide receiver Chase Claypool and acquiring another in cornerback William Jackson III. With the dust now settled from those Tuesday trades, it’s time to look deeper into them and specifically from a financial, cap and contract standpoint.

First, the fact that the Steelers were able to trade Claypool to the Chicago Bears in exchange for a second-round draft pick is quite the accomplishment, in my honest opinion. Claypool was still owed $673,062 in base salary for the remainder of the 2022 season so that is now off the books for the Steelers as a savings. The Steelers will, however, take a dead money hit in 2022 of $593,025 and another dead money hit of $593,025 in 2023 after trading Claypool away.

There’s something else to consider when it comes to Claypool as well. He had already qualified for a Level One PPE (Proven Performance Escalator) raise in 2023 as he played 63.0% and 70.2% of all offensive snaps played in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Claypool was also on pace to at least earn a Level Two PPE raise in 2023 as each of his first two NFL seasons have ended with him playing more than 55% of the total offensive snaps.

In short, Claypool needed to play at least 55% of all offensive snaps once again in 2022 to qualify for a Level Two PPE raise in 2023. At worst, Claypool was going to earn somewhere around $3,718,500 in 2023 as he has already qualified for a Level One PPE increase. That is no longer a concern for the Steelers as that will be on the Bears’ books now. Consider him being gone a nice cap savings in 2023.

So, was trading away Claypool a good deal all around for the Steelers? We’ll see, but it certainly looks great on paper Tuesday night. This team really can use that second-round draft pick they got from the Bears. To me, that’s worth more than Claypool for the next season and a half.

Now on to Jackson, a former 2016 first-round draft of the Cincinnati Bengals and a player the Steelers were likely to select that year had he fallen one more spot to them.

The Steelers acquired Jackson and a conditional 2025 seventh-round pick from the Washington Commanders on Tuesday for a conditional 2025 sixth-round pick. That swap of late-round picks much later down the road shows that the Commanders were just wanting a team to take the remaining 2022 base salary owed to Jackson off their hands, along with whatever pregame roster bonuses he can earn. That max will be in the $3.1 million range, assuming he is active for all remaining games.

Now, Jackson is under contract for the 2023 season, and he is scheduled to earn a base salary of $9.25 million. Additionally, he is due a $2.5 million roster bonus in March to go along with a $250,000 offseason workout bonus and another $750,000 in per-game roster bonuses, which some of that is likely to be considered NLTBE (not-likely-to-be-earned). To keep in even numbers right now, Jackson is scheduled to have a 2023 salary cap charge of $12.75 million.

In essence, Jackson is a $3.1 million rental for the Steelers for the rest of the 2022 season with an option to buy for 2023 come March. If he plays well the rest of the 2022 season, the Steelers obviously aren’t likely to cut Jackson before his $2.5 million roster bonus is due. In fact, if he plays well, the Steelers might consider attempting to sign Jackson to a two-year extension prior to paying him his March roster bonus. Such an extension would help lower his 2023 salary cap charge some to boot.

Should Jackson not play well the rest of the 2022 season, the Steelers will likely cut him before his March roster bonus is due. Going that route would not produce any dead money. In short, Jackson has a lot of incentive to play well in the Steelers’ final nine games. Is it worth $3.1 million or so and the swap of late-round 2025 draft picks to take Jackson for a nine-game test drive? I think so.

Do keep in mind that the Steelers already knew a lot about Jackson ahead of them trading for him. Not only did they scout him heavily ahead of the 2016 NFL Draft, Teryl Austin, who is the Steelers’ defensive coordinator, was also previously the Bengals’ defensive coordinator in 2018. So, he coached Jackson in Cincinnati for one season.

If you want an unorthodox way to look at these two trades that the Steelers made on Tuesday, look at it like the Steelers spending the money they were going to pay Claypool in 2023 on Jackson for the second half of this season. Plus, they received a second-round selection in 2023 NFL Draft to do that. If Jackson pans out past 2022, and if the Steelers use that 2023 second-round pick wisely, we might look back at these two Tuesday trades very, very favorably. Time will tell.

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