The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into the final two weeks of being able to re-sign any of their own players from the 2021 season who are set to become free agents at the beginning of the league year. Whether it be their own players, or outside free agents once the legal tampering period begins on March 14, the Steelers will have a lot of work to do to add the players they need to their roster for 2022.
With the Steelers implementing new ways to do contracts last offseason, some believe they could possibly continue these things as they add new players to their roster. But according to ESPN’s Brooke Pryor, while meeting with different media outlets at the NFL Scouting Combine General Manager (GM) Kevin Colbert said it is doubtful the Steelers would use void years in contracts going forward.
Don't expect the Steelers to use voidable years in future contracts.— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) March 1, 2022
Colbert: "It was an usual year with the low cap because of the pandemic and the reduced revenue. We had to be open to new ideas. Will we use those types of ideas going forward? I think that’s doubtful."
For those who are not sure what voidable years in contracts do, it simply allows teams to spread out signing bonuses over additional seasons to reduce how much they count each year. If a player signed a two-year contract and has three void years added at the end of the contract, it means their signing bonus would be split up with one-fifth of that counting each season, instead it being one-half counting each year they are under contract.
So what happens when the void years hit in the contact? All the money which was spread out over the additional years will all come due and count towards the salary cap at that time.
The best example for fans to understand this method is from the Steelers using void years is with JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2021. Signing a one-year deal for $8 million dollars, Smith-Schuster had four void years added to his deal. With $1 million as his base 2021 salary and a $7 million signing bonus, only $1.4 million of said bonus counted each year. So while Smith-Schuster only counted $2.4 million against the 2021 salary cap, the repercussion was a dead money hit of $5.4 million counting against 2022, even if he re-signs with the Steelers.
There are still three players currently under contract with the Steelers who have void years in their contacts. When the Steelers signed Cameron Sutton to a two-year deal last offseason they added three void years to the end in order to keep the cost down for 2021. The Steelers also added a void year to Joe Schobert’s contract when they converted his salary to a signing bonus last season. Finally, the Steelers restructure of Stephon Tuitt’s contract last offseason added three void years to his deal.
While Kevin Colbert is on his way out the door as the Steelers GM, as he is stepping aside following the 2022 NFL draft, the decisions to work contracts in this way do not fall strictly on Colbert. Sticking with overall franchise philosophies whether it be Colbert, Omar Kahn, or whoever is working out the deals for the Steelers, they all are typically on the same page.
So what does adding void years to a contract do to a player who the Steelers could potentially sign? Not much of anything from the player standpoint. The only thing which would change is if a team is willing to pay more money, but not have a player count as much towards the salary cap. Otherwise, this is strictly a move done by the organization to spread the money out.
For those who are really into the salary cap, whether it be the entire NFL or strictly the Pittsburgh Steelers, knowing the team is not likely to use void years in future contracts has more benefits than consequences. Sure, it might help things in the short term, but it does keep the Steelers from continually kicking the can down the road even more.