Sunday evening, news broke regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers and cornerback Joe Haden coming to terms on a new two-year contract extension. The deal doesn’t just keep Haden in Pittsburgh for three more seasons, including 2019, but also frees up some very valuable salary cap space prior to the start of the 2019 season.
The new contract reportedly frees up about $3.4 million dollars of cap space in 2019, per Ed Bouchette of The Athletic:
Joe Haden’s new 3 year contract with the Steelers through the 2021 season can reduce his salary cap hit for this year by as much as $3.4 M— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) September 2, 2019
Combine this number with the cap savings provided by Stephon Tuitt’s restructured contract earlier this offseason, and you have about $7 million dollars in cap space now available.
What will the team do with this money? Some are suggesting they will give the money to nose tackle Javon Hargrave, but according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN the team isn’t going to go out of their way to extend Hargrave prior to Week 1.
The next Steeler in line for a contract would be defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, but a deal appears unlikely, and I'm told he's prepared to play out the final year of his contract and enter free agency, where he will do well.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) September 2, 2019
Hargrave is a valuable member of the defense, even he is considered only a part-time player. In 2018, playing only in specific packages within the defense, Hargrave registered 6.5 sacks, more than outside linebacker Bud Dupree.
While some fans will read this and become infuriated over the thought of losing the man they call ‘Gravedigger’, the fact of the matter is the Steelers still have the ability to take a wait-and-see approach with Hargrave. For instance, if Hargrave finds himself on the field more in 2019, and continues his high level of play, the Steelers will have after the season until the new league year to keep him in the organization with a new contract, before he hits free agency.
On the flip side of this, if Hargrave doesn’t see the field as much, and doesn’t contribute as much as he did in 2018, the team could offer him less money, or let him walk via free agency thinking they can replace him in the future.
Either way, it doesn’t look as if a deal with Hargrave is getting done before the Steelers stop doing business with their players prior to Week 1 of the regular season.