Thanks in large part to Le’Veon Bell’s continued absence, the Pittsburgh Steelers have never had so much salary cap space available in midseason as they do right now. With $9,057,999 in cap room currently showing on the NFLPA public salary cap report, the team actually has enough funds to consider trading for a talent like Patrick Peterson.
However, with the Steelers’ financial projections for 2019 not looking quite so comfortable, making such a commitment to Peterson would require them to make some difficult choices during the offseason. With just 37 players currently under contract for next year, Pittsburgh has just over $17 million in salary cap space showing on their account, based on an estimated league wide cap figure of $188 million and including a rollover of almost $9.06 million.
When the obligatory futures signings are made at the end of the season, the Steelers will add at least another 14 players to the roster at a minimum salary of $495,000 for a total cost of $6,930,000. Taking this figure into account, Pittsburgh projects to be more than $10 million under the cap heading into 2019, a number that should be expected to rise over the coming weeks with Bell essentially paying $855,529 back into the account every Saturday.
Based on numbers from OverTheCap.com, only four teams in the NFL are projected to have less effective cap space than the Steelers next year. But while they find themselves in familiar territory when compared to their peers, Pittsburgh’s cap situation might not be as dire this time around as it has so often seemed in the past.
Despite having 14 unrestricted free agents to worry about, only a handful of them figure to be costly to re-sign. The contracts of players like Bud Dupree and maybe even Morgan Burnett offer the front office some notable cap savings if the team decides to go in another direction and a possible contract extension for Ben Roethlisberger would offer some cap relief in year one over his current figure. If the coaching staff envisage any of Joe Haden, Maurkice Pouncey or Marcus Gilbert playing for them beyond 2019, there are saving to be made with extensions for all of them as they enter the final year of their contracts.
Adding Peterson from the Arizona Cardinals would require Pittsburgh to find room for his $11.25 million cap hit next season and $12.3 million total the year after. While not an impossible task, it is of course worth noting that his remaining 2018 cap hit of around $6.5 million would eat into the rollover amount the Steelers are currently projected to carry into 2019.
As much as Peterson’s addition would hamper the team’s ability to be active in free agency next year, it would be a price worth paying for someone of his talent. That being said, it would not be a surprise if the team’s own internal projections about their cap situation were enough in their own right to stop them considering the move.