The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 offseason has progressed appropriately since the beginning of the league year. With a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, the Steelers were able to restructure contracts, offer tenders, use the franchise tag, sign free agents, make their draft selections, and get their undrafted rookie free agents under contract. With a focus on getting their draftees under contract in the coming weeks, the Steelers will also be looking to sign some players to either a new contract or a contract extension.
While some of these new deals may not come until the summer, it’s not out of the question for player representatives and the Steelers to be working on something now. With that said, which Steelers going into the last year of the current deal are likely to be given a new contract before the 2020 season begins?
Rather than focus on all the players, let’s tackle one at a time. With each player, it will first be determined if they should receive a new deal along with how much would be a fair contract to both parties. This exercise is meant to just be fun and speculative as we all get to play general manager and salary cap guru for a day. The biggest question with the remaining players is if a contract would be better before this season or next offseason.
If you wish to give a basic contract answer without diving too deep into numbers, simply skip over the italicized section. If you are the kind of person who would like to see how the contract would affect the salary cap, here it is...
Coming up with an exact contract can be tricky. Rather than get into roster and work out bonuses or different amounts per season, we’re going to estimate the salaries as simply as possible. For whatever deal the player gets, the first year will have all but $1 million put into a signing bonus which will get spread over the life of the contract. For example, if a player were to sign a three-year contract for $10 million per year, the first year would have a $1 million base salary and a $9 million signing bonus. Therefore, the bonus would be spread out to $3 million over each season where the player would count $4 million dollars for 2020 and $13 million for the other two years.
One other factor which needs to be considered is if the player brings any dead money from the previous contract. To account for this in a simple manner, throw it into the salary cap hit for the first year of the players deal. Using the above example, if a player had $4 million in dead money on their last contract, the salary cap hit for their first year would be $8 million.
After looking at a deal for: Cam Heyward, Bud Dupree, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, James Conner, Mike Hilton, and Chris Wormley, now let’s finish off the series and see what kind of contract Steelers’ fans would like to work out with Cam Sutton now rather than play the 2020 season before making a decision.
Age: Turned 25 in February
Draft: 3rd round, 94th overall
Previous Contract: Rookie deal
2020 salary cap hit: $1,009,032
Dead Money: $184,032
Here are the top contracts average per year (AYP) at the cornerback position according to overthecap.com:
Darius Slay: $16.683 million
Byron Jones: $16.5 million
Xavien Howard: $15.05 million
James Bradberry: $14.5 million
Patrick Peterson: $14.01 million
There is no reasonable belief Sutton would be worthy of a top-end contract. It gets tricky when ranking Sutton’s worth since he plays a limited number of snaps. so we’ll look at two different things to help put more perspective to where he lies among other NFL corners. First, Sutton did not play enough snaps o be given a ranking among all qualifying NFL cornerbacks in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus (which is a debatable process for players in the secondary, so keep that in mind). Sutton played 268 defensive snaps where it took about 330 to qualify. So even though he wasn’t ranked, he had the exact same overall score as Nickell Robey-Coleman who ranked 16th. Here are the players under contract beyond their rookie deals who ranked closely to Sutton:
14. Byron Jones: $16.5 million
15. Kenny Moore: $8.325 million
16. Nickell Robey-Coleman: $1.35 million
17. Jason McCourty: $5 million
19. Jonathan Jones: $7 million
The other issue to consider players who also didn’t qualify in the PFF rankings but scored a simialr overall rank as Sutton (74.5). Here are the players under contract beyond their rookie deals who scored higher than 63.0 but did not qualify for a ranking due to their number of snaps played at cornerback last season:
71.9 (216 snaps) Tye Smith: $962,500
67.5 (132 snaps) Antonio Hamilton: $1,047,500
65.8 (115 snaps) Dean Marlowe: $1,425,000
63.9 (282 snaps) Anthony Brown: $5.167 million
63.1 (329 snaps) Terrance Mitchell: $3.333 million
Notes: Sometimes the forgotten draft pick from 2017, Cam Sutton may be the trickiest of all these deals. Locking him in now would probably give the Steelers a much better discount should he have a big 2020. But being the final year of his rookie deal, it would almost definitely cost more on this season’s salary cap. If the Steelers could lock Sutton in for only a few million dollars per season it would be wise.
So now it’s deal time! Perhaps the first question should be a completely different game show: Deal or no deal? Should the Steelers look to sign Cameron Sutton before he finishes his rookie deal? If so, what should the deal look like? Please leave your response with the number of years and the average salary per season in the comments below.