A little less than three weeks from today, the 2023 NFL league year will start and at that time all 32 teams will need to be compliant with the Rule of 51 regarding the salary cap. These next few weeks figures to include the Pittsburgh Steelers making a few moves in order to get themselves ready for the start of the new league year. With so much misinformation already floating around on other sites concerning the Steelers’ current salary cap situation, I have once again started a new series this offseason to set the record straight on where the team is at and where they are likely to go financially throughout the offseason. Today, we will discuss Restricted Free Agent tenders.
By now, we have already established that the Steelers aren’t likely to use the Franchise or Transition tag on any players in the coming weeks. In fact, it will be quite surprising if they do. But what about Restricted Free Agent tenders? We haven’t talked too much about those since I posted right after the 2022 season ended about the short list of players who could possibly receive one.
The small list of Steelers’ players who qualify for restricted free agent tenders this offseason includes cornerback James Pierre, wide receiver Steven Sims, center J.C. Hassenauer, and running back Jeremy McNichols. Of those four players, only three of them, Pierre, Sims, and Hassenauer, really stand a chance of being restricted tendered.
If any of those four named players above are restricted tendered in the coming weeks by the Steelers, each would likely receive a low Right of First Refusal one. Such a low-level tender is a one-year contract worth $2.627 million this year. The tendering Steelers then would have the right to match any offer sheet from another team signed by the player, but there is no draft compensation tied to this kind of tender.
Once a player is restricted tendered, however, that amount must be accounted for by the Steelers under the salary cap beginning on the first day of the 2023 league year, March 15.
So, let’s say that the Steelers decided to issue Right of First Refusal restricted tenders to Pierre, Sims, and Hassenauer. The combined costs of those three tenders would be $7.881 million. As the Steelers’ Rule of 51 sits currently, all three of those players would enter it and thus displace the three lowest cap charges in doing so.
The three lowest cap charges that would be displaced as a result of Pierre, Sims, and Hassenauer all being restricted tendered at the lowest level would total up to be $2.61 million. In summation, the Rule of 51 cap space used by the Steelers in restricted tendering Pierre, Sims, and Hassenauer at the lowest level would be $5.271, according to how the roster currently sits.
Now, whether or not the Steelers should restricted tender Pierre, Sims, and Hassenauer is an argument all of you can have in the comments. Of the three players, however, I think that Pierre is virtually guaranteed to receive a restricted tender soon with Sims and Hassenauer close behind him in probability.
In case you need a reminder, last year the Steelers tendered all three of their qualified restricted free agents and they were inside linebacker Robert Spillane, inside linebacker Marcus Allen, and quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who sadly passed away last April.
Players who are not restricted tendered by this year’s March 15 deadline will essentially become street free agents and thus be free to sign with any other team without the Steelers having the opportunity to match.