2023 Free Agents Analysis: ILB Devin Bush – Unrestricted

Player: Devin Bush

Position: Inside Linebacker

Experience: 4 Years

Free Agent Status: Unrestricted

2022 Salary Cap Hit: $6,004,654

2022 Season Breakdown:

Did you know that Devin Bush had a cap hit of over $6 million in 2022? How did you feel about that? Not good, I would imagine. But it’s important to remember that the Steelers couldn’t have done anything about it. While a little over half of that was in the form of base salary, that salary was fully guaranteed. And that’s standard for top-10 draft picks. Indeed, every pick in the first round as of 2022 was given a fully guaranteed contract from start to finish, so it’s not like they would have saved any money by cutting him. And nobody was going to trade for him after the 2021 he had. It would have cost the team more to cut him because they would have had to pay him while also replacing his roster spot with another salaried player.

The fact that we’re spending so much time at the outset talking about this really says a lot, however, about his season. Because there wasn’t a lot to say. Did he play better than last year? Sure. At least he didn’t frequently actively run away from contact. Indeed, he was even physical at times. He made a handful of plays redolent of the junior out of Michigan they thought they were getting.

But the fact that he played 10 snaps over the final two games in spite of no health issues is the story. The fact that Myles Jack was even banged up at the time—that’s the story. The fact that seventh-round rookie Mark Robinson played ahead of him even though they were contending for the postseason—that’s the story.

Free Agency Outlook:

The Steelers made their feeling about Devin Bush’s future in Pittsburgh clear by the end of the season. They all but benched him by year’s end. He’s not going to be back, and he probably doesn’t want to be back. He won’t be back any more than Jarvis Jones or Artie Burns ever had any chance of signing even a one-year second contract the way Terrell Edmunds did.

So where does that leave us? Where does that leave Bush? Well, he should land somewhere, but in what capacity? As depth? How much of an opportunity can he find elsewhere to compete for another starting job right away?

It certainly feels as though he will have to prove himself no matter where he goes, as though he’s starting from scratch. He’s had a year removed from injury. That excuse is gone. Will he be willing to play on special teams? He was confident in training camp that he’ll be playing somewhere next season.

I imagine he will be, but perhaps not a lot. And at what price? Would anybody sign him for more than a one-year prove-it deal? I could imagine him earning a few million as a flier, possibly with incentives involved, just because former first-round picks usually get a second shot. But he could also find veteran minimum.

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