If a report released on Saturday by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is to believed, it would appear that Antonio Brown might not be the only player under contract hoping to be playing elsewhere in 2019. Just one year into the three-year deal he signed as a free agent in March, safety Morgan Burnett is also looking to leave the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason.
Spoke with #Steelers S Morgan Burnett, who tells me he wants to be released from his deal before free agency. During his time in Pittsburgh, he felt he played out of position as a dime LB. Burnett, with 2 yrs left on his contract, wants a new start & a chance to play safety again— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 19, 2019
Reportedly unhappy with being asked to play at linebacker when the Steelers run their dime defense, Burnett apparently wants to be released in time to hit free agency when the new year league begins, according to Rapoport.
Signed to a three-year contract worth $14.35 million during free agency, a deal that included a signing bonus worth $4.35 million, Burnett’s release would save Pittsburgh $3,633,332 against the cap in 2019, while leaving them with $2,833,334 in dead money. If he was designated as a post June 1 release, the Steelers would save $5.05 million in salary cap space this year and leave themselves $1,416,666 to account for in dead money in each of next two seasons.
Set earn a base salary of $5 million in his second season with the team and an additional $50,000 as part of a workout bonus clause, there are significant cash savings to be made by granting his release. However, having missed a large part of training camp and five game during his debut season with a variety of injuries, there was no guarantee Pittsburgh was going to bring back a player for that much money who ultimately only started twice in 2018.
Even when healthy in the second half of the season, the coaching staff still appeared to favor Terrell Edmunds at strong safety in their base defense, a fact that is unlikely to change given the rookie’s draft position and Burnett’s historic inability to stay healthy.
But while it is understandable that the former Green Packers safety would rather be on a team where he feels he would have a better opportunity to start, his complaint about playing the dime linebacker position make less sense. Given it was his experience in that role that encouraged the Steelers to sign him in the first place, something the coaching staff had spoken openly about using him for in Pittsburgh, it feels as if his real complaint might actually be about his overall lack of playing and being stuck behind a rookie on the depth chart.
Before they consider releasing him, it should be expected that the Steelers would attempt to move him via trade, even if it was in return for just a late round selection.