2023 Free Agents Analysis: S Damontae Kazee – Unrestricted

Player: Damontae Kazee

Position: Safety

Experience: 6 Years

Free Agent Status: Unrestricted

2022 Salary Cap Hit: $760,000

2022 Season Breakdown:

Targeted as one of three potential safeties the Pittsburgh Steelers were hoping to sign, Damontae Kazee signed shortly after the 2022 NFL Draft. He did so even after the Steelers re-signed starting strong safety Terrell Edmunds, and for only the veteran minimum.

Whether or not there was ever any chance of a competition for the starting job is hard to say because Minkah Fitzpatrick missed time, which allowed Kazee to run with the starting lineup, but then was injured at the end of the preseason. He spent the first half of the year on the Reserve/Injured List after suffering a broken arm.

When he did return, however, he played a fair amount, logging 273 defensive snaps in the nine games in which he played. That accounted for over half of the team’s defensive snaps in the second half of the year, and that included him starting in that first game back against the New Orleans Saints, which Fitzpatrick missed.

He finished the season registering 20 tackles and he came away with two interceptions, one in that Saints game and then one in the finale against the Cleveland Browns. That latter pick gave the Steelers the ball in scoring range and resulted in a touchdown that established a two-possession lead late in the third quarter.

Free Agency Outlook:

Kazee signed a Veteran Salary Benefit contract with the Steelers, which allows the team to take a reduced cap hit against a slightly larger salary. The player earns the veteran minimum amount for his years of credited experience on such a deal, along with a minimum signing bonus, but the signing team only has to account against the cap for the equivalent of the minimum salary of a player with two years of experience.

So Kazee actually earned a base salary of $1,035,000 in 2022 with a $152,500 signing bonus, the maximum amount that he could have earned while having a cap hit of only $760,000. That cap hit is actually lower than it otherwise would have been because the Steelers were able to make it a split salary after he was placed on the Reserve/Injured List.

Given his limited playing time in 2022, one wonders if his market will be any better than it was a year ago. At the time, he was coming off the stigma of a DWI, which didn’t help matters. He did play well in his brief playing time while in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers figure to have a deal of interest in re-signing him, and it would be a foregone conclusion should Terrell Edmunds sign somewhere else; indeed, he would be likely to start. Given that he seemed to fit in well, they will probably want to sign him to a multi-year contract if possible, but Kazee may want a one-year deal to get another opportunity at the open market in 2024.

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