The start of the NFL’s league year used to be full of drama and anticipation as teams prepared to sign the top free agents as soon as the clock struck the starting time. I still remember in 2009 when the league year began at midnight and Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan was waiting outside of the house of Bart Scott in order to talk to him about coming to New York. Since that time, the NFL has not only moved the start of the league year to daylight hours, they have given a two-day “tampering period” where teams can negotiate deals with players before making the contracts official when the new league year starts.
With this tampering period now in place, the NFL has created a bit of a news frenzy in the two days leading up to the start of the league year. As teams are releasing players, resigning their own players, and making various moves around the salary cap, free agency has also been lumped into the mix. Having all of these in a two-day period has made for some entertaining sports news cycles as all other professional sports have been shut down for public health reasons.
So is there anything left to look forward to when they league year starts at 4 PM on Wednesday? Honestly, not very much. The biggest news stories of already broken and teams will probably be slowing down with their business decisions as the pool of high-end free agents gets depleted. What can we expect specifically from the Pittsburgh Steelers in the coming days? There are several possibilities which could end up becoming news, so let’s look at each one:
While it appears the Steelers are under the salary cap for the 4 PM deadline, if they wanted a little bit more wiggle room there is still a player or two who could restructure their contract to help out the team. The biggest question with this procedure is if the Steelers really want to add more money to their salary cap in the next year or two. If so, either Stephon Tuitt or David DeCastro could be candidates for restructures.
While it appears the Steelers have released any of the players they needed to get out from underneath their salary for the 2020 season, there still could be a player or two who gets released. Unfortunately, one of my favorite Steelers is a prime candidate: Roosevelt Nix. With the free-agent signing of Derek Watt at fullback, it seems silly for a team to carry two players at a seldom-used position. There is the possibility the Steelers needed to find another full back because perhaps the injury to Nix’s knee is something which was going to affect the rest of his career. But don’t be surprised to see a player like Nix released in the near future.
Re-signing Players from 2019
There are still a few players the Steelers could retain for 2020 who were a part of the 2019 roster. A player like Jordan Dangerfield who is a reserve safety but used primarily as a special teams player could be brought back on a very low contract. The Steelers could also attempt to sign tight end Nick Vannett if the price is right. These would be low-profile moves on the part of the Steelers but would greatly shape their roster for 2020.
While the Steelers usually wait until the summer to work out contract extensions, there still a possibility it could be done sooner than later. The prime candidate for a new contract is defensive tackle Cameron Heyward. Not only do the Steelers need to lock up Heyward beyond the 2020 season, they could even lower his salary cap hit during the first year. The other obvious choice, as Kevin Colbert stated during his interview at the NFL combine, is the Steelers do not use the franchise tag without the intentions of signing a player long term. Look for the Steelers to attempt to work out a deal with Bud Dupree sometime between now and the July 15 deadline.
Another Free Agent Signing
For only the second time ever, the Steelers signed an outside free-agent player during the legal tampering period. Usually not big players the first day of free agency, the Steelers are more known for their second wave signings. With the frenzy around the highest profile free agents really dying down, I would not be surprised to see the Steelers sign another player to a reasonable contract sometime over the next week. Positions in which the Steelers could add a player include offensive line, tight end, linebacker, or safety. Of course there are other positions which could be used as well such as running back, wide receiver, defensive line, or outside linebacker, but these are also positions many believe the Steelers will address in the draft. While there isn’t exactly one pressing position the Steelers have to upgrade in free agency, anything they would add now would reduce the draft need in April.
So these are some moves the Steelers could make once the league year begins at 4 PM on Wednesday. It appears the largest headlines are most likely behind us, but we just don’t know for sure. Either way, make sure you’re checking back to Behind The Steel Curtain for your latest news, player updates, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.