2023 Free Agents Analysis: iOL J.C. Hassenauer – Restricted

Player: J.C. Hassenauer

Position: Interior Offensive Line

Experience: 3 Years

Free Agent Status: Restricted

2022 Salary Cap Hit: $895,000

2022 Season Breakdown:

The 2022 season was a much quieter one for three-year veteran interior offensive lineman J.C. Hassenauer, as it was for all of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ backup offensive lineman. The entire starting five only combined to miss something like 48 snaps on the season. ‘Fortunately’ for Hassenauer, 46 of those snaps were missed by their starting center, Mason Cole.

Cole actually played through injury for the majority of the season, but he had to exit a few games, even if briefly, because of them. Hassenauer stepped in for four snaps in the season opener, and then for just one snap against Tampa Bay, but he had to play extensively after the bye.

In week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Cole went down with a foot injury, though he would be able to return the following week and didn’t miss another snap for the rest of the season. In that game, however, Hassenauer had to play most of the snaps at center, 41 in all.

Although he was penalized once, he held his own pretty well overall, certainly no worse than one might expect for a backup coming off the bench. Truth be told, he has mostly played at or above the line since the Steelers plucked him out of the Alliance of American Football. He took a step forward in his play in 2021, however, when he got to play center more than guard.

Free Agency Outlook:

I don’t see Hassenauer as substantially different from B.J. Finney, who was the Steelers’ primary interior reserve before him. But the market is a bit different. Both were former undrafted free agents, meaning that when it came time for them to hit restricted free agency, Pittsburgh would have to tag them at a higher value to merit any compensation for losing him.

They did choose for Finney at the time to tag him at the second-round level, which at the time was $3.095 million, with the original-round tender being $2.025 million. Now the original-round tender for 2023 is $ 2,627,000 and the second-round tender is $ 4,304,000. That’s a pretty steep price to pay to keep your backup interior lineman.

And the difference is, at the time, the Steelers still viewed Finney as a potential starter in waiting with the 2019 season expected to be Ramon Foster’s final season (which it was). But Finney never succeeded him, and actually left the following season in free agency before finding his way back.

Nobody is viewing Hassenauer as a potential starter in waiting, even if he has done perfectly fine for the most part when he has started. With that in mind, I expect that they will place an original-round tender on him, and would match any reasonable offer that he might receive by another team. Because otherwise their backup center is Kendrick Green.

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