Today is March 8th and that means we now have one week remaining until the 2023 NFL league year gets underway. Two days prior to that, Monday, March 13, is when the legal tampering begins for players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on March 15. So, with us now officially one week out from the official start of the 2023 NFL league year, let this post serve as a loose guideline as what could and should be forthcoming in these next seven days as it pertains specifically to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Tenderizing – The Steelers have four players who are restricted free agents this offseason in cornerback James Pierre, wide receiver Steven Sims, center J.C. Hassenauer, and running back Jeremy McNichols. At least one of those players should receive a restricted Right of First Refusal tender from the Steelers before March 15 and possibly even as many as three of the four. Last year, we didn’t find out the players restricted tendered until a few days before the start of the 2022 NFL league year so we could be waiting that long again this year. As a reminder, a low Right of First Refusal tender in 2023 is a one-year contract worth $2.627 million.
Cutting It Up – The Steelers certainly need some salary cap space created before March 15 and because of that, we are almost sure to see a player or three have their contracts terminated by the team before Wednesday evening gets here. Cornerback William Jackson III leads the list of cut candidates this offseason thanks to his scheduled 2023 salary cap charge of $12,187,500. Barring him agreeing to cut his scheduled 2023 earnings down to the minimum, Jackson should be a former member of the Steelers a week from now.
Beyond Jackson, there could be another contract termination or two forthcoming in these next seven days. That said, Steelers veteran backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky might not be let go. The same might go for inside linebacker Myles Jack, who like Trubisky, is set to earn a base salary of $8 million in 2023. Will it be one, two, or three players cut by next Wednesday? We’ll find out soon enough.
Now Or Later For Watt & Fitzpatrick? – It certainly seems like the Steelers are destined to restructure the contracts of outside linebacker T.J. Watt and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick at some point prior to Week 1 of the 2023 regular season. Will one or both get restructured prior to the start of the 2023 NFL league year next Wednesday? That’s really the big question that’s hard to answer with great confidence right now.
Full contract restructures on Watt and Fitzpatrick would create $12,613,333 and $10,065,000 in 2023 salary cap space, respectively. Should either or both wind up being restructured by the start of the 2023 NFL league year on Wednesday, we might find out about it as early as tomorrow, Thursday, March 9.
Lend An Extend? – On the surface, there aren’t many Steelers players ripe for contract extensions this early in the offseason. Sure, outside linebacker Alex Highsmith is likely in the Steelers’ plans this offseason, but odds are probably good that will happen later in the summer, as opposed to the middle of the March. What about Trubisky, however? After all, the Steelers sound like they want to keep him past the 2023 season. Might the Steelers have a contract extension lined up for him right now that would result in his 2023 salary cap charge lowering by about $4 million or so? I believe such a transaction is at least plausible with one week remaining before the start of the 2023 league year.
What about Jack as well? That’s probably a lot less likely, but stranger things have happened before. In short, don’t be shocked if an extension happens this next week.
Re-signs Of The Times – Annually, we see the Steelers do their best to get a few of their scheduled unrestricted free agents re-signed before the ball drops at the start of the NFL league year. Last year, the last-minute re-signings included tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, safety Miles Killebrew, and cornerback Arthur Maulet. This year, veteran cornerback Cameron Sutton leads the list of Steelers’ scheduled unrestricted free agents that might be re-signed prior 4:00 p.m. ET on March 15.
Other than Sutton, defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, tight end Zach Gentry, safety Terrell Edmunds, linebacker Robert Spillane, safety Damontae Kazee, and wide receiver Miles Boykin are just a few of the other soon-to-be unrestricted free agents the Steelers might try to re-sign by next Wednesday night. A few will certainly be re-signed by Wednesday and we now have one week to find out how short or long this year’s list is.