The Pittsburgh Steelers added veteran offensive lineman Nate Herbig earlier this offseason on a reported two-year, $8 million deal. While not official yet, presumably, as in sent into and approved by the league, it is also reported that they are signing Isaac Seumalo, who would become a new plug-and-play starter at guard.
Considering they already have James Daniels at one guard position and Mason Cole sitting at center, this seriously calls into question the future of Kevin Dotson, the primary starter at left guard for the past two seasons. A fourth-round pick in 2020, he played every snap a year ago.
In doing so, he helped earn himself a couple of bonuses. The one that can’t hurt him is the Performance-Based Pay bonus of $746,013, money earned for the amount of playing time he had relative to his compensation in 2022, and money that does not affect the Steelers’ salary cap.
His base salary increase as part of the Proven Performance Escalator, however, is an issue for him. Players drafted after the first round on their rookie contracts entering year four are eligible for the PPE at three levels based on their playing time and achievements.
Dotson qualified for the first-level PPE for having played a cumulative 60.3 percent of the Steelers’ offensive snaps over the past three seasons. That raised his base salary from a scheduled $1,010,000 to $2,743,000, a salary increase of $1,733,000.
Prior to the reported signing of Seumalo, it was assumed that Dotson might compete with Herbig for the starting left guard job, and if he were to lose, he would serve as the top backup guard (though it should be noted that he has no experience playing center).
With Seumalo coming in and Herbig looking at a potential backup role, you’re not factoring in Dotson as your likely number five interior lineman with an inability to play center. And he is pushing $3 million in compensation, which may (or may not) be a bit too rich.
That could be determined by how the rest of the offseason plays out. No doubt he would be tremendous depth if he were to be the third in line to play guard, but is more than $2.7 million more than Pittsburgh would want to pay?
The good news is that they don’t have to make a decision any time soon. They will likely carrying him at least through to the end of final roster cuts, and if they are comfortable where their depth is without him, they would likely try to flip him for a draft pick, and then cut him if they fail to do so.
But they could re-sign him for a lesser amount in that event. He still got over $700K from the PBP increase, so that’s a nice little extra chunk of change that nobody can take from him.
It should be noted that the Steelers were willing to carry wide receiver Miles Boykin, a special teamer, under a PPE elevated year-four salary, and they did the same previously with defensive end Chris Wormley. Yet they also failed to tender any of their restricted free agents this year, so they may be more concerned with pinching pennies where they can than they were before.