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Predicting a new contract for Alejandro Villanueva with the Steelers

If the Steelers and Villanueva can work out a deal to keep the left tackle in Pittsburgh, what would it look like?

NFL: DEC 22 Steelers at Jets Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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.

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 as well as Bud Dupree and JuJu Smith-Schuster, now let’s see what kind of contract Steelers’ fans would like to work out with Alejandro Villanueva rather than play the 2020 season on the final year of his current deal.

Alejandro Villanueva

Age: Will turn 32 in September
Years: 6, including practice squad
Draft: Undrafted
Previous Contract: $6 million average per year
2020 salary cap hit: $8.39 million
Dead Money: $3.39 million

Other top contracts average per year (AYP) at the left tackle position according to

Laremy Tunsil: $22 million
Anthony Castonzo: $16.5 million
Taylor Lewan: $16 million
Nate Solder: $15.5 million
D.J. Humphries: $14.75 million
Jake Matthews: $14.5 million

Villanueva ranked 24th among all NFL tackles in 2019 regardless of which side they played according to Pro Football Focus. Here are the players under contract beyond their rookie deals who ranked closely to Big Al:

21. Laremy Tunsil: $22 million
22. Halapoulivaati Vaitai: $9 million
23. Duane Brown: $11.5 million
28. Andrew Whitworth: $10 million
29. Cornelius Lucas: $1.9 million
30. Dennis Kelly: $5.75 million

Notes: This is another questionable situation as Villanueva will be turning 32 during the season. How much time does he really have left at his age even though he has only played for five seasons? Earning Pro Bowl honors in 2017 and 2018, the Steelers have to decide how much of an investment they want to make an offensive lineman on the wrong side of 30. Would the Steelers be better off waiting to see how Villanueva performs in 2020 before having to make a major commitment? Or with the Steelers be wise to offer a small back-loaded extension somewhat similar to Ramon Foster in 2019?

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 Alejandro Villanueva going into the final year of his current contract? 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.

Next time on Let’s Make A Deal: Matt Feiler.