With the NFL’s new calendar year set to flip over on Wednesday, well Monday, the Steelers find themselves in a position to do something they haven’t been able to do since forever: Go hog wild!
At last check—and these figures seem to change a bit on a regular basis—the Steelers will have just under $29 million in cap space to play with on Wednesday.
That’s not a record, but it’s not bad. You can work with that if you’re the Steelers. You can throw your board into the ocean and ride that first huge wave of free agency, bruh.
But it’s going to take more than just the same old pragmatic Steelers we’ve come to know and love but also lose patience with on Twitter during the first few days of the free agent frenzy. The Steelers are going to have to go out of their comfort zone.
They’re going to have to make more promises than they’re used to. One of those promises is going to most definitely have to be more guaranteed money. And that’s not just because they opened up an unusual, for them, can of worms last summer by guaranteeing T.J. Watt $80 million as part of his new, multi-year deal.
That’s just how business is done during the first wave of free agency, a time when you don’t normally have future Defensive Players of the Year floating around. Instead, what free agency really is, especially that first wave, is a time when the guys who weren’t deemed good enough to get the franchise tag can just sit back and watch multiple teams try to out-bid one another for their services.
In other words, in order to be major players, the Steelers are going to have to overspend to secure a major player.
When was the last time the Steelers signed a free agent, and you said, “Man, that’s a huge contract. How can they spend so much on a center/corner/tackle?”
I’m not so sure it’s ever happened, and that’s because those “Two-years for $10 million” deals don’t happen during that first wave. Those usually occur during the second or third wave, much more comfortable and familiar water for the Steelers.
Those days are over for the time being, at least I think they are. I really haven’t asked the Steelers what their plans are for that first wave, and even if I did, I’m pretty sure they’d tell me to take a number and then not return my call.
Maybe the Steelers will be their usual practical selves and stick to the second or third wave. Maybe their idea of being major players will be different than most other teams in the league—for example, no crazy amounts of guaranteed money—and they’ll wind up alienating most of the current and future first-wave free agents in the process.
It’s going to be an interesting study to see how the Steelers handle all of this cap space.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Steelers played it cautious yet again, and I wouldn’t be opposed to it; I don’t necessarily think overspending in free agency is necessarily the answer.
I also wouldn’t be shocked if they did do something out of character for them—the times, they continue to change.
I do know the fans, especially those on social media, are ready for the Steelers to be major players and ride that first wave all the way to the shores of “Free Agent Winners.”
Are the Steelers ready, however? I’ll believe it when I see it.