The Pittsburgh Steelers pursued three options at safety last offseason and ended up landing two of them—for bargain rates. They first re-signed their own, Terrell Edmunds, just before the draft, to a Four-Year Player Benefit contract. They added veteran starter Damontae Kazee for the minimum after the draft.
This time around, Kazee is reportedly already back on a two-year deal, though it hasn’t officially been submitted to and approved by the league. Meanwhile, Edmunds remains unsigned during his second consecutive season on the open market. So what is going on at the back end of the defense?
“As for Edmunds, he wants to test the free agent market and the Steelers know that, but don’t rule out the possibility of him returning if there are no buyers”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette beat writer Gerry Dulac wrote in yesterday’s chat.
This is more or less the same approach that the Steelers took last year. They gave Edmunds the opportunity to explore his market, and it didn’t turn up much. He decided to stay in Pittsburgh on a deal he could only get from the team due to his time spent there.
But what about the safety they’ve already signed? What does Dulac think is the plan there? Evidently not much. “I don’t need to think”, he said. “The Steelers stated their plan when they signed Kazee. He will backup Minkah”.
Will he, though? What if Edmunds doesn’t re-sign? Do the Steelers not believe Kazee is a capable starter? Did they not pursue him as one of three options last year? What would their plan have been in 2022 if Edmunds signed elsewhere? Would they instead have tried to draft another starter at safety?
Given the fact that there hasn’t been much movement with their former first-round pick, it does seem reasonably likely that he will once again wind up back here on an affordable deal. Maybe it will be the same deal that he got a year ago, which allows the team to pay a player up to $1.25 million more than the minimum without that counting against the cap.
That allowed Edmunds to earn $2,537,500 in 2022 while only wearing a $1,187,500 cap hit. He could earn slightly more than that this year with minimum salaries rising every year, but it would be roughly in the same ballpark.
If he can’t find much better than $2.5 million from another team on the open market, which it appears he is struggling to do, then it doesn’t make much sense for him to leave Pittsburgh. But if he doesn’t return, would Kazee really not be the starter? Who would be, in that case?