As the start of the new league year is now less than one month away beginning on March 16, 2020, at 4 PM, there are a number of items dealing with NFL contracts that will be kicking in across the league. Whether it be bonuses or guarantees in salaries, there are key dates in which these things occur in certain NFL contracts.
Another part of NFL contracts that kick in is the implementation of void years when a player no longer has a base salary for the upcoming season. With dates varying by different clubs, some void years kicked in the day after the Super Bowl while others go as far into the future as the first day of the league year. According to spotrac.com, the three players with expiring contracts which contain void years for the Pittsburgh Steelers entered into affect on Friday, February 18, 2020.
It had been reported by various outlets that Trea Turner’s one-year deal with a Steelers included void years in order to minimize the 2021 salary cap hit, but ultimately this ended up not being the case. Therefore, the three Steelers with expiring contracts in which dead money from void years come due in 2022 are Ben Roethlisberger ($10.34 million), JuJu Smith-Schuster ($5.6 million), and Eric Ebron ($3.904 million).
As a reminder of how void deals are utilized in NFL contracts, they are simply used as a tool to spread out a player’s signing bonus over more years than what the player has remaining on their contract. While utilizing this feature, a player’s signing bonus can be reduced in order to cut down their salary cap hit for a given year. Eventually, all the money will be counted on the salary cap as all the remaining void years and the amounts within them will come due once the contract voids.
For Ben Roethlisberger and Eric Ebron, they had void years added to an already existing contract that they reworked last offseason. Eric Ebron added four void years to his contract which spread $976,000 per season into the future, causing the last four years totaling $3.904 million to come due in 2022.
As for Ben Roethlisberger, he technically signed a new contract to override the last year of his last contract. In doing so, he took a $5 million pay cut and added four void years to the end of the contract. With $2.585 million spread out over all the seasons, the four void years have now come due at $10.34 million. For those thinking Roethlisberger might officially hold off his retirement until after July 1 in order to help the Steelers spread out the money remaining on his deal into another year, it would have required a new contract into 2022 to be signed before Friday. Instead of going through a newly signed ‘fake’ contract, something the NFL would likely not have been happy about if Roethlisberger ultimately retired, the Steelers are taking the entirety of the $10.34 million on the 2022 salary cap.
The final player on the Steelers whose contract voided on Friday was JuJu Smith-Schuster. The reason his deal was different is because he was not under contract going into 2021 but signed a one-year deal with four void years added to the end. With JuJu’s $7 million bonus spread out over five seasons at $1.4 million per year, the last four seasons are now due at $5.6 million. Since the contract voided, even if Smith-Schuster were to sign another deal with the Steelers it would be completely separate from his last contract and the $5.6 million is now dead money regardless of where he lands.
There is one remaining player on the Steelers who has void years in his contract which was signed ahead of the 2021 NFL season. Cameron Sutton had three void years added to his deal, but by signing a two-year deal he is still under contract through 2022. The Steelers could do a contract extension with Sutton this offseason and the $700,000 per season in the three years beyond when he is under contract would simply come due in each of those years. If not, Sutton is due to have his contract void next February, bringing the entire remaining $2.1 million as dead money for 2023.
If Steelers fans were thinking they used an additional contract with void years, they would be correct. The one-year deal the Steelers signed with Melvin Ingram also included four void years. But when the Steelers traded Ingram to the Kansas City Chiefs in November, the remaining $2.34 million as dead money toward the 2022 season all came and due at that time.
According to Sportrac, there are 25 contracts due to void in the NFL between the Super Bowl and the start of the new league year. As of Friday, 16 of those contracts have officially voided including those done by the Steelers as well as for others with the Seattle Seahawks. There are still nine contracts yet the void in the NFL leading all the way up to March 16. Some of the remaining contracts to void include Odell Beckham Jr. (2/21), Rob Gronkowski (2/21), wide receiver A.J. Green (3/11), Jameis Winston (3/16), and Jadeveon Clowney (3/16).