Should the Pittsburgh Steelers ultimately end up parting ways with Antonio Brown this offseason, the front office will need every bit of salary cap space they can get their hands on if they hope to replace him during free agency. And while the Steelers are not facing anywhere near the sort of cap crisis they have experienced in past seasons, they are still among the bottom third of the league when it comes to available salary cap space in 2019.
When the front office finally sits down to work out how much money they have to play with, it would appear that league rules will be taking a little bit more out of the accounts for next season after Javon Hargrave became eligible for an increase in pay due to the NFL’s Proven Performance Escalator (PPE) clause.
As per the CBA, any player selected after the second round of the draft entering his fourth year in the league can earn a PPE bonus if he meets theses rules of eligibility:
(1) He participated in a minimum of 35-percent of his Club’s offensive or defensive plays in any two of his previous three regular seasons;
(2) He participated in a “cumulative average” of at least percent of his Club’s offensive or defensive plays over his previous three regular seasons.
With Hargrave receiving 43.58-percent of the snap available in 2018, 46.38-percent in 2017 and 47.04-percent in 2016, he easily qualifies under both criteria.
Players who are eligible for this bonus receive an increase in their base salary in line with the lowest restricted free agent (RFA) tender amount for that year. Although tender amounts for the upcoming season are yet to be declared, that figure is projected to be around $2.045 million. Given Hargrave was already set to earn a base salary of $720,000 in 2019, he would effectively see a pay rise of $1.325 milion and have a cap hit of $2,218,314 next year instead of the $893,314 he was originally contracted to cost.
As noted by former agent and salary cap specialist for Clayton Football and CBS Sports Joel Corry.
No. It includes Javon Hargrave's 2019 salary increasing by approximately $1.325M for earning the CBA's proven performance escalator for 3rd through 7th round picks & B.J. Finney getting the lowest RFA tender. https://t.co/16s7zX3Y6S— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) January 10, 2019
Pittsburgh should also see the return of two names who began 2018 as their final year under contract, but missed enough of the season to be eligible to have their contracts tolled in 2019. With Ryan Shazier and Eli Rogers having started the year on the physically unable to perform list (PUP), both will see their contracts rolled over into next year.
As per the CBA.
“Any player placed on a Physically Unable to Perform list (“PUP”) will be paid his full Paragraph 5 Salary while on such list. His contract will not be tolled for the period he is on PUP, except in the last year of his contract, when the player’s contract will be tolled if he is still physically unable to perform his football services as of the sixth regular season game.”
Simply put, when a contract tolls, it effectively means it has been put on hold for a year, resuming the following season. The same thing also happened to the contract of Martavis Bryant when he missed a year due to suspension. In this instance, Shazier obviously sat of the entire season, while Rogers was not activated until well after Week 6.
If not for the Steelers decision to restructure the contract of Shazier earlier in the offseason, his contract would have tolled at a rate of $8.718 million, but he will instead be under contract for one more year at a salary of $805,000, with Rogers set to have a charge of $720,000. Figures confirmed to us by Corry on Thursday.
As the former agent noted in an excellent article for CBS Sports looking at a potential new contract for Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh are now projected to have around $17.25 million in salary cap space available when they start the new year, a number that also assumes B.J. Finney receives the lowest RFA tender this offseason.