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Steelers Salary Cap, Part 3: Destroying the salary cap and getting compliant

We continue our in-depth look at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ salary cap situation heading into 2020.

Kansas City Chiefs v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

In the previous article of this series, I laid out aspects of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand regarding the 2020 NFL cap. While numbers were not put into full motion in the last article, they will be as I look to bloat the cap. The bloating of the cap will put the Steelers well over the $200 million projected NFL salary cap. Being over the cap does not matter at this time because the last article in this series will bring the Steelers into compliance with the NFL’s salary cap rules.

How much cap space do the Steelers have?

Over the Cap recently updated the Steelers under contract and now shows the Steelers with $1.7 million in cap space left for 2020 (not current, but close enough for this exercise) . There are many aspects that are not yet included.

  • The 2020 NFL draft class. (Their entire salaries do not count against the cap until they sign their contracts, but for this exercise, I will use their projected salaries)
  • Players 52 and 53, who do not count against the 2020 cap until the regular season starts.
  • Practice squad.
  • 2021 carryover money.
  • Steelers free agents, which may include RFA, ERFA, and UFA players.
  • Free agents from other teams. (In this article, I will not discuss f.)

The numbers that I will use are projected or estimated as we will not know the exact figures for a month or two. Keep in mind that any time the team adds a player, the lowest salary will drop off the roster.

Time to add Steelers free agents whom I expect the team to re-sign and the cost associated with each.

  • Bud Dupree: Franchise tagged at a cost of $16,266,000
  • Matt Feiler: RFA tagged with the original round tender of $2,144,000
  • Mike Hilton: RFA tagged with the second-round tender of $3,278,000
  • Zach Banner: New contract with a 2020 cap hit of $735,000.
  • Kameron Canaday: New contract with a 2020 cap hit of $735,000
  • Nick Vannett: New contract with a 2020 cap hit of $860,000

What does the Steelers’ cap situation look like after the above moves? It is ugly, with the team in the red -- $18,917,025 over the cap.

What about the draft picks?

And I’m not done yet digging the team in a deeper hole. The team’s draft class needs to be accounted for, but not all contracts will be applied toward the cap due to their salaries falling outside of the top 53 contracts. Only the top four draft picks will count toward the salary cap.

  • Second-round draft pick: $621,194 with displacement calculated in.
  • Third-round draft pick:$169,270 with displacement calculated in.
  • Fourth-round draft pick:$137,029 with displacement calculated in.
  • Fourth-round draft pick:$125,773 with displacement calculated in.

After the draft class is signed, the team dives further into the red, to $19,970,291.

Three more factors that need to be factored in.

  • 52nd and 53rd salaries: $1.17 million.
  • Carryover: $1.5 million. (I will discuss in further detail in another article why this figure is less than half of what the Steelers typically carry over.)
  • Practice squad: $1,428,000.

The grand total is $23,195,291.

General manager Kevin Colbert and contract guru Omar Khan have their work cut out for them just to get cap compliant, let alone tag Dupree and sign some impending free agents. What moves they will make won’t be known for another month or two, but it is clear cuts will be made and restructures will have to be done. Hopefully, it is clear that if the Steelers want to make the above moves, medium- or higher-priced free agents are off the table. Fans will have to be content with James Conner at running back and not seeing Melvin Gordon in the backfield in 2020.

In the final segment of this series, I will take the necessary steps to become cap compliant. Who gets cut, who gets an extension and will the Steelers really be able to keep Dupree with the franchise tag?

Previous articles in this series:

Part 1: 2 Quirks Which Impact the Salary Cap
Part 2: Salary Cap Space Remaining