Going into the 2020 NFL free agent period, Steelers’ fans were well aware there were going to be some tough losses. If players were going to move on to another team, the best thing for the Steelers would be for those players to sign huge contracts in order to help the Steelers out in the NFL’s compensatory formula.
As it stands right now, the Steelers would be eligible for multiple draft picks in 2021. Of course, the Steelers could still sign another free agent as well as lose a player which would change everything. Before diving into where the Steelers stand and what would need to happen in order to keep any compensatory draft picks, click HERE for the previous article which listed several misconceptions about the NFL’s compensatory formula.
Now let’s see where the Steelers stand. Currently, the Steelers still have a loss of four and a gain three, with only two having enough of a salary to qualify. The Steelers’ losses are:
Javon Hargrave ($13 M per year, 4th round)
Sean Davis ($5 M per year, 6th round)
Tyler Matakevich ($4.5 M per year, 6th round)
B.J. Finney ($4 M per year, 6th round)
The Steelers net gains are:
Eric Ebron ($6 M per year, 6th round)
Derek Watt ($3.25 M per year, 7th round)
Stefen Wisniewski ($1.425 M per year, non-qualifying)
The rounds associated with each player is simply an estimation at this time. In Hargrave’s case, he is right at the cusp between a third-round or fourth-round selection. The experts at overthecap.com (OTC) have Hargrave with a fourth-round designation so this is where we will go. Similarly, OTC has Watt at a seventh-round designation but he’s right on the edge of being a sixth, although it would not matter in the current situation.
One of the biggest factors which could change things next spring is the contract of Stefen Wisniewski. Right now, he is estimated to be a non-compensatory free agent. In the 2019 season, a salary of $1.425 million qualified as a compensatory free agent as Chris Hogan counted as a loss for New England at this same amount. According to OTC, the lowest 2019 salary which still qualified in the compensatory formula was J.J. Nelson of the Arizona Cardinals at $950k. For 2020, OTC has salaries as high s $1.5 million still in the non-qualifying category.
Another player which could change the cancellation process is Sean Davis who signed a one-year deal in Washington. With his contract reportedly having several performance bonuses, it is possible he could not earn the full $5 million which would cause his round designation to drop. Also, having bonuses of this nature does not guarantee the Redskins will keep Davis the entire season.
Going by the numbers as they currently stand, the Steelers have a net loss of two players and would be in line for two compensatory draft picks. The round every player gained is designated will cancel another player from the same round. If there is no player in that round, they cancel a player from the next lowest round until a player is canceled. If there are no players at an equal or lesser round of the player gained, then the bottom player on the list is canceled.
Starting at the top, Eric Ebron would cancel Sean Davis. With no other seventh-round player, Derek Watt would cancel the bottom player on the list (Although Finney has a lower salary, OTC has Matakevich on the bottom of the list for some reason). Looking at what is remaining, the Steelers are currently in line for a fourth-round pick and a sixth-round pick.
Having a net loss of two players, the Steelers can sign another free agent and still be eligible for a selection in 2021. Additionally, players such as Artie Burns or Nick Vannett could count as a net loss if they sign with other teams for a yearly amount enough to qualify for the formula.
This is only the beginning when it comes to the compensatory process. Remember, other factors throughout the 2020 season, such as playing time or postseason awards, will enter into the formula as well. But it is fun to see where the Steelers are for the time being.