With 13 days to go until the start of training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers, we continue our 30 predictions in 30 days series with another bold claim for 2019.
Alternating daily between myself and BTSC Editor Jeff Hartman, we will offer our forecasts for the upcoming season. Some will be team oriented, while others will be specific to individual players. Posing an argument for and against our predicitons, we invite you to weigh in on the debate as well.
Following on from Jeff’s claim that JuJu Smith-Schuster will score 10 touchdowns in 2019, I turn my attention toward the state of the teams financial situation and how that will impact the team’s offseason signings.
Prediction: The Steelers will only extend the contract of one player in 2019.
Why it will happen: Despite having already signed a sizeable contract extension with the player who would have been Pittsburgh’s most important free agent in 2020, there seems to be an expectation among some sections of the fan base that more deals will be coming this offseason. A belief that might even be shared by one or two players.
After back-to-back seasons featuring significant spending, some appear to have been lulled into a false sense of security that this was a sustainable business practice for the Steelers. In reality, with less salary cap space to work with than even they are used to at this time of the year, it is very doubtful that Pittsburgh will entertain any contract extensions in 2019 with the exception of cornerback Joe Haden.
Set to earn a base salary of $10 million in his final year under contract, a new deal for Haden could significantly reduce his cap hit in 2019 and provide the Steelers the extra room they require. Still faced with the offseason costs of the team’s workout bonuses, two extra players on the roster once they pass the Rule of 51 period, a practice squad and the cushion of around $3 million they generally like to take into the regular season, any savings earned from a new deal for Haden would quickly be eaten up elsewhere.
Unfortunately for the likes of Sean Davis, Javon Hargrave and Mike Hilton, this will mean there is very little left over to entertain an extension for any of them. To make matters more complicated for these three names specifically, each one will earn such a low base salary in 2019 that there is almost no scope to offer an extension without notably increasing their cap hit this year. Mike Hilton the most severely impacted in this regard given he is currently due to earn just $645,000.
And while Hilton is not expected to command an extension in the range of the four-year contacts worth $36 million that fellow slot cornerbacks Justin Coleman and Kenny Moore signed with the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts respectively this offseason, there can be no doubt that he would receive a significant increase over his current salary as part of a new deal. But sitting with just $984,968 in salary cap space as of Friday, as per the NFLPA public salary cap report, that is an increase Pittsburgh simply cannot afford.
Projected to be just $10 million under an estimated $200 million cap in 2020, a figure that places them in them fifth from bottom, the Steelers need to be wary of handing out any more contracts that come with a sizeable second-year hit. The deals signed by Mark Barron, Anthony Chickillo and Donte Moncrief will consume almost $20 million in salary cap between them next year alone.
Why it won’t happen: When the Steelers have wanted to make moves in the past during a tight cap year, they have restructured the contracts of others to create the room they require, and this option remains open to them in 2019, albeit with risk attached.
Theoretically the front office could create 10’s of millions in cap space if they were willing to go far enough with restructuring. However, the impact on future seasons would be brutal, especially heading into 2020 when Pittsburgh is already projected to have problems.
Set to earn a base salary of $3.095 million in his final year under contract, B.J. Finney is arguably the only other player who could save the Steelers a small amount of cap space with an extension and he remains an outside candidate for a new deal.
What are your thoughts on this prediction? Do you think it will happen? Or are we crazy? Let us know by voting in the poll, and letting your voice be heard in the comment section below!
Will the Steelers sign more than one player to a contract extension in 2019