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How should the Steelers handle their 2021 Restricted Free Agents?

Will the Steelers offer tenders to their two RFA’s this offseason?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

There’s a lot of uncertainty with Pittsburgh Steelers as they enter the 2021 offseason. With 24 players set to become free agents of one type or another, the Steelers have some decisions to make and salary cap magic to be worked in order to retain as many players as they would like. While some decisions are no-brainers, others are something that will not likely be determined until the start of the new league year on March 17.

First off, there are three free agents that aren’t really free agents. These are the exclusive rights free agents. Bottom line, these players belong to the Steelers at a league minimum as long as the Steelers want them this season. With the three players being Robert Spillane, J.C. Hassenauer, and Marcus Allen, there’s no reason to cut ties with any of them. These are the three no-brainers.

The unrestricted free agents are quite a lengthy list and it is currently at 19 players. While the Steelers would like to sign most of these players if it all possible, there will be an awful lot to work out. These players are free to sign with anyone they choose once the league year starts.

The final group, which consists of only two players, are the Steelers restricted free agents. These players have a chance to be retained by the Steelers for a certain contract but could still explore other options where the Steelers would have the right to match offers from other teams.

When it comes to restricted free agents, there are multiple ways teams can go with offering a tender. The following is an explanation as to what qualifies as a RFA and their designation according to NFL.com.

Restricted free agent (RFA): A player with three accrued seasons and an expired contract. RFAs are free to negotiate and sign with any team, but their original team can offer them one of various qualifying offers (“tenders”) that come with the Right of First Refusal and/or draft-pick compensation. These amounts change by a minimum of 5 percent and a maximum of 10 percent (based on the salary cap) each League Year. Tenders are classified as follows:

First-round tender: If the player’s original team decides not to match an offer sheet signed with another team, it is entitled to a first-round draft pick from his new team.

Second-round tender: If the player’s original team decides not to match an offer sheet signed with another team, it is entitled to a second-round pick from his new team.

Original-round tender: If the player’s original team decides not to match an offer sheet signed with another team, it is entitled to a pick in the round the player was originally drafted in.

Right-of-first-refusal tender: Team has the right to match any offer sheet signed with another team, but there is no draft compensation tied to this tender.

The projected value for RFA’s are listed below courtesy of overthecap.com.

2021 Projected RFA Tenders

Type Amount
First Round $4,766,000
Second Round $3,384,000
Original Round $2,133,000

The following Steelers are set to become RFA’s for 2021:

OLB Olasunkanmi Adeniyi
WR/KR Ray-Ray McCloud

So what should the Steelers do with these two players? Is the only way to keep them by offering them a tender? Not listed above is the right-of-first-refusal tender, which is the same as an original round tender and would be $2.133 million for 2021. Ola Adeniyi would fit into this category as he was an undrafted free agent and would not carry any compensation. As for Ray-Ray McCloud, he was a sixth-round draft pick from the Buffalo Bills, so an original round tender would mean the team would have to give up their sixth-round selection to the Steelers if they signed McCloud and the Steelers did not match the offer.

The bigger question with both of these players would be if they are worth the more than $2 million for the 2021 season. It’s not even a question of whether or not the Steelers would like to keep the players, but if that is a good salary for them. Unless another one is signed, the original round tender for McCloud would instantly make him the highest-paid wide receiver on the Steelers.

To better understand what the Steelers may do, looking back at the restricted free agents from 2020 may help shed some light on the subject for Steelers fans. Although the Steelers had five restricted free agents last season, only two of them were offered a RFA tender. Both Matt Feiler and Mike Hilton were signed as a second-round tender as a restricted free agent. The other three players, Kameron Canaday, Jordan Dangerfield, and Zach Banner, were not offered tenders but were all signed by the Steelers for 2020. By not being offered a tender, all three players became unrestricted free agents although the Steelers signed them right at the start of free agency.

So when it comes to both of these players, the biggest issue is salary. Do the Steelers want to commit that much to each of these players? Or do they simply want to allow them to become unrestricted free agents and hope to sign them at that time?

What do you think? Should the Steelers use the restricted free agent tenders on Ola Adeniyi or Ray-Ray McCloud? Make sure you vote on the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Poll

Should the Steelers offer a restricted free agent tender to either Ola Adeniyi or Ray-Ray McCloud?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Yes, don’t let either of them get away
    (211 votes)
  • 9%
    Yes for Adeniyi, no for McCloud
    (136 votes)
  • 27%
    Yes for McCloud, no for Adeniyi
    (411 votes)
  • 48%
    No, it’s too much to offer either player but signing them cheaper is an option
    (712 votes)
1470 votes total Vote Now