There are so many questions as to how the Steelers are going to conduct business when the league year kicks off for 2020 on March 18. Will they operate the entire season under the final year of the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, or will there be a new CBA in order to help conduct business? Will restructures be on the at some point during the free agency period, or will the Steelers only be able to save money under the salary cap by releasing players? Who do the Steelers prepare to move on from and what players do they value highly in order to retain? Will the Steelers use the franchise or transition tag this season, and will it be on Bud Dupree? Can they offer tenders to all of their Restricted Free Agents (RFA’s)?
The list of questions could go on and on. But right now, all we can go by are the situations which are presented to the Steelers at the moment. Unfortunately, the team is up against the salary cap where even the increase in value for 2020 will probably be just enough for the team to sign their draft class and maybe offer an RFA tender or two.
Last week, we posed the question to everyone at Behind the Steel Curtain where we got to play Steelers GM for a day. The last task was to choose either Vance McDonald or Mark Barron to keep for the 2020 season (which can be viewed HERE). This week, we are going to offer one second-round RFA tender to either Matt Feiler or Mike Hilton. Rather than debate which tender either player should be offered, we’re just going to stick to the projected $3.278 million price tag of the second-round designation in order to remove one factor. Just for information’s sake, a first-round tender is projected at $4.667 million while an original-round tender is approximately $2.144 million according to overthecap.com. Both Feiler and Hilton were undrafted, so an original-round tender would equate to a “right of first refusal” situation.
To clarify how a Restricted Free Agent tender works, when an RFA is offered a tender, they have the option to sign it and play the season at the amount stipulated. The other option is for the player to go out and look for a new deal with another team. If a different franchise signs them to a contract, the original team has the option to match the offer signed by the player in order to retain them, or they could turn it down and receive a draft pick from that team from whatever round the player was tendered.
Now that we understand exactly how a Restricted Free Agent works, which player are you going to offer the tender? Here are the rules: One of the players will be tendered and the other will convert to an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA). Take everything into account including playing time, ease of replacement, or anything else you can think of. I’ll lay out the case for each player below and make sure you vote in the poll at the conclusion of the article.
In his first season as a full-time starter, Matt Feiler played in all 16 games in 2019 and logged all 995 of the offensive snaps. Filer started 15 games at right tackle played left guard in the Steelers Week 10 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. In his place, Chuks Okorafor logged all the snaps at right tackle.
With statistics being hard to come by for an offensive lineman, there are a few numbers associated with Feiler’s play in 2019. He was called for three total penalties on the season where he was credited for two fall starts in one holding penalty. According to Pro Football Focus player grades, Feiler ranked 20th among all offensive tackles in the league. His total PFF grade of 75.2 was the highest of all the Steelers offensive linemen.
If Feiler is not retained for 2020, the other offensive tackles from the 2019 53-man roster who would be under contract would be Alejandro Villanueva and Chukwuma Okorafor. Zach Banner is also a Restricted Free Agent for 2020. Feiler could also be moved to guard in next season if needed.
Coming off down year in 2018, Mike Hilton got back to form as part of the Steelers resurgent defense in 2019. Hilton played it all 16 games and logged 671 snaps on defense which equated to 61.9%. Changing up how the Steelers played their sub-package football depending on their opponents, Hilton was not the only player who logged snaps at the slot corner position as Cameron Sutton also saw 265 snaps on defense.
As for his statistics, Hilton had one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, 11 passes defensed, and 1.5 sacks along with 65 tackles in 2019. His PFF ranking was 42nd out of all cornerbacks with the overall score of 68.0 for 2019. With his biggest knock being his run defense, Cameron Sutton actually scored slightly higher than Hilton but only due to a much higher score against the run. Hilton had a total of four penalties called on him in 2019 with two being enforced. He was flagged for pass interference twice (one was offsetting), defensive offsides, and defensive holding.
As previously mentioned, if Hilton is not retained by the Steelers Cameron Sutton would be the prime candidate to take over the position in 2020. Although the Steelers have a number of other cornerbacks on the roster, whether or not they are best fitted to play the slot corner position would be the bigger question.
So which player is more necessary for the 2020 season? I know some will be tempted to say both, but for this exercise you must choose only one to keep. Hands down, my choice would be to give both players a second-round tender. But in order to keep the exercise fair to both players, I’ll keep my choice of which player I would keep a secret for the time being. Does one player have more value to the Steelers than the other? Is one of these players more replaceable with someone currently on the roster? Make sure you vote in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Which player would you offer a second-round tender as the Steelers GM for 2020?
This poll is closed