With the Pittsburgh Steelers up against the salary cap for the 2020 season, much discussion has been made about which players may become cap casualties this off-season. I have already outlined the players on the team which would cost more against the cap than to keep them for the season as well as the players who could save the Steelers some cap space but the dead money hit would be a lot to overcome. Just to clarify, “dead money” is the amount money already paid to a player that has yet to be accounted for under the salary cap. This time, let’s look at the players who can save the Steelers a significant amount of space under the salary cap.
Here is a list of the eight Steelers who have at least $1 million higher cap savings than their dead money amount if they were to be released for the 2020 season. Granted, some of these players the Steelers would not consider moving on from anytime soon based on their on-field production. But whether or not their departure would be likely given their salary cap situation, it never hurts to know the numbers. All figures listed are courtesy of overthecap.com and reflect if the player was a pre-June 1 cut (the only type available the the final year of the Collective Bargaining Agreement).
Dead money: $3,751,250
Cap Savings: $9,500,000
It’s true Cam Hayward has the highest cap savings of any player currently on the Steelers at $9.5 million. With less than $4 million in dead money, the numbers align for the Steelers to make this move to save money. But sometimes making a move based on numbers defies all logic which is the case here. Moving on from an All-Pro player coming off an amazing three-year stretch of production just to save cap space is not a formula for success in the NFL. If not for it being the final year of the CBA, Heyward would most assuredly receive a new contract.
Dead money: $3,390,000
Cap Savings: $5,000,000
Coming off a year in which he struggled, Villanueva could bring a $5 million savings to the Steelers. The problem is, the Steelers have plenty of other questions to answer on the offensive line this season so having to find a replacement left tackle as well is not the smartest move just to save money under the cap.
Dead money: $2,875,000
Cap Savings: $5,250,000
Some Steelers’ fans have already written off Barron as a cap casualty in their mind. While the Steelers could save over $5 million, it’s unclear how much they value Barron at the current price. When signed last off-season, the Steelers did structure the contract in a way where moving on after one year was possible.
Dead money: $1,455,000
Cap Savings: $5,672,500
Vance McDonald is the rare player on the list who has a contract with the Steelers if they choose, but there is a club option for both 2020 and 2021. While many believe the cap savings would be very beneficial to the Steelers, the bigger question remains if the Steelers can replace McDonald for less money than what they would spend to keep him in 2020.
Dead money: $1,097,500
Cap Savings: $5,000,000
I have questioned why the Steelers signed Chickillo this past off-season, especially since his plantar fasciitis injury which bothered him in 2018 also affected his 2019 season. Being able to save $5 million, I don’t see why the Steelers would bother to keep Chickillo for such a price. Based on his 2019 production, if his cap savings was half of what it is currently the Steelers should still make the decision to move on.
Dead money: $1,575,000
Cap Savings: $4,000,000
In interviews following the Steelers Week 17 game, Foster appeared to see the writing on the wall that his time with the Steelers may be coming to a close. It’s a shame such a solid player and great leader may become a salary cap casualty, but age is not on Foster’s side at this point in his career.
Dead money: $375,000
Cap Savings: $1,800,000
Cutting a player to save less than $2 million for the cap doesn’t help a lot, but if the Steelers feel they could replace Berry for much cheaper it may be something worth considering. Berry was having a fantastic year early on, but his struggles late in the season is what remains in the mind of my Steelers’ fans.
Dead money: $125,000
Cap Savings: $1,500,000
There are many who are wondering why McCullers continues to be a player the Steelers continue to keep around. Yes, they could save $1.5 million towards the cap in 2020. But with the expected departure of Javon Hargrave, McCullers might be in the Steelers plans as to how to cover the position.
So these are the eight players currently under contract with the Steelers who have a salary cap savings which is more than $1 million than their dead money hit. While cutting any of these players does carry some cost against the salary cap, the money has already been paid to the player so they are not taking any more cash out of pocket if they were released. Of course, this is strictly from a numbers perspective. When factoring on-the-field performance, some of these players are no-brainers to keep while others should be looking for the call from the Steelers’ front office sometime in the next several weeks.