The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into the 2020 offseason with just $4,895,081 in cap space. While also being faced with two free agents expecting lucrative deals. Obviously, the quickest way to shed some money would be to cut players who are not living up to their current deal. But is cutting 5 starters/rotational players the right call, just to save one of those Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs)?
According to salary cap site Sportac, Bud Dupree’s market value is $16.6 million and Javon Hargrave would command another $14.7 million on the open market. But I can't see a world where the Steelers could create enough cap space for both (plus RFAs and the 2020 draft class) contracts. Hargrave comes from a position of depth and will likely not get a competitive contract offer, but the Steelers have had continued interest in re-signing Dupree.
So what would have to be done to create the $16 million in cap? Well I think we can expect the terminations of both Ramon Foster ($4,000,000) and Anthony Chickillo ($5,000,000), but that only gets us to $12 million dollars.
And this is where I feel like it will get dicey cutting anyone else.
I’m sure some of you are screaming at your screen calling for Mark Barron’s head, but the reality of the situation is while Barron wasn't stellar, he still played big minutes for the Steelers and lined-up in situations that the team didn't feel confident having either Devin Bush or Vince Williams in. Cutting Barron would force the Steelers to find another depth linebacker, and they'd have to do it for less than the $5.25 million.
Same goes for Vance McDonald. How many tight ends could be brought in for less then $6.55 Million? Because, Eric Ebron, Hunter Henry, and Austin Hooper will command a much higher price-tag. Gambling on Vance being healthy would save the Steelers from drafting the position in the second round or spending any money on the open market.
Instead, what if the Steelers went outside linebacker with their 2nd round pick? Even if that player only amassed 4.5 sacks in 2020 and combine that with the 2019 Steelers sack total (minus Dupree) and they'd still amass 47 sacks, which would've been good enough for 6th in the league (and about $13 Million cheaper).
Signing Dupree to a $16-17 Million dollar deal means the Steelers would have to fill guard, ILB, TE, and back-up OLB positions, all with virtually no cap-space. Letting Dupree walk means the Steelers have to fill OLB (+ back-up), and guard positions with about $11 Million in cap-space.
Money that could be spent chasing All-Pro Guard Joe Thuney, or Pro-Bowl Guard Brandon Scherff. Which lets the Steelers draft its Bud Dupree replacement, and they still could draft players that push Mark Barron or Vance McDonald, but in this situation it wouldn't be a rush to move them out before the draft, and it would truly allow the Steelers to take the best player available.
Two OLB prospects the Steelers could target to replace Dupree are Terrell Lewis from Alabama, or Josh Uche from Michigan. Uche, is a great pass-rusher and could pick up where Dupree left off in 2020 while Terrell Lewis is a better all around player than Uche who can be disruptive in the run game yet still make it to the Quarterback.
Lewis likely would've been a lock as a first round pick had he not torn his ACL in the summer of 2018, but he is still quick for his large 6’5” 260 pound frame and has a chance to fall to the Steelers.
So the question is do I bring up good points or was this exercise too much of a stretch for you! Let us know if you'd bring back either high priced UFA below in the comments section.