While having a lot of salary cap space in June is it necessary the best time of year, it could still be beneficial for team still trying to make moves via trade or signing players who are unexpectedly available. For many teams having salary cap space is merely about signing their draft picks and having enough cash available for conducting business, such as signing their practice squad. For however it’s used, having salary cap space is not a bad thing for teams to be dealing with at any time of the NFL year.
After the retirement of Stephon Tuitt on June 1, a specific date which the Steelers saved an additional $4.755 million on this year salary cap, the Steelers are in much better shape than many believed. With the opportunity to save even more against the salary cap by restructuring contracts such as T.J. Watt or Cameron Heyward, the Steelers may not have to push any additional money into the future in order to make moves in either acquiring new players or signing their own. After Tuitt’s retirement, the Steelers currently sits with approximately $20.6 million in salary cap space according to my calculations as well as those by overthecap.com (OTC).
Ultimately this number is all that matters to the Steelers, but it does have them currently as the NFL franchise with the sixth-most salary cap space according to OTC once all the post-June 1 designations are taken into account. To clarify what a post-June 1 designation means, teams can designate up to two players who they release or trade following the previous season to where their dead money salary cap hit is the same as a player who was traded, released, or retired after June 1. While the Steelers did not have a player who they released under the circumstances, four teams with more salary cap space than Pittsburgh took advantage of this rule.
According to OTC, the Steelers are one of six teams who have more than $20 million in cap space at this time. The list of these teams and their estimated salary cap space are as follows:
1. Cleveland Browns: $40.9 million
2. Carolina Panthers: $25.1 million
3. Las Vegas Raiders: $22.5 million
4. Dallas Cowboys: $22.5 million
5. Chicago Bears: $22.2 million
6. Pittsburgh Steelers: $20.6 million
The only two teams on this list that did not have a post-June 1 designation were the Carolina Panthers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Cleveland Browns picked up another $9.5 million in salary cap space on June 1 as Austin Hooper was used for this designation when he was released. The Las Vegas Raiders picked up an additional $19.75 million due to the post-June 1 designation of Cory Littleton and Carl Nassib. This jump in salary cap space had the Raiders with less than $6 million prior to June 1 and now having the third-most in the NFL at $22.5 million.
Both the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears picked up significant cap space on June 1 as well. The Cowboys gained an extra $10 million from La’el Collins while the Bears picked up more than $7 million from Tarik Cohen and Danny Trevathan.
Keep in mind, using the post-June 1 designation does not make money go away, but simply has it moved into the next year. This is exactly what is happening with the Steelers and Stephon Tuitt‘s retirement as the additional $4.755 million is counting towards the 2023 salary cap.
Speaking of the 2023, three of the teams ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers on this list may not be looking to spend much money this season as they are dealing with salary cap issues the following year. While there is almost always ways to push money into the future, having a good bit of carryover into the next year, which is unused money from the salary cap from the previous season, can help alleviate the pressure.
It should be noted the Cleveland Browns are already close to $30 million over the estimated salary cap for 2023 according to OTC. With Deshaun Watson set to count almost $55 million on the salary cap, along with Myles Garrett coming in close to $30 million, the Browns look to be in a much different situation next season.
The Carolina Panthers are another team who is currently estimated to be over $30 million on the wrong side of the 2023 salary cap according to OTC. The other team in the red at this time for 2023 according to OTC is the Dallas Cowboys who are about $5 million over next years estimates.
Continuing to look at next year status, the Steelers and Raiders are in a pretty good place at this time with the Raiders already estimated to be more than $20 million under the salary cap in 2023, but with only 39 players under contract. The Steelers and their 44 players under contract for next season are currently almost $60 million under the salary cap for next year according to OTC. But in the best shape of all the teams that still have $20 million in space this year is the Chicago Bears who have 47 players under contract and almost $100 million under the estimated 2023 salary cap according to OTC.
Although the Steelers are currently in the “over $20 million in salary cap space” club at this time, this looks to change very soon as they have yet to get first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett under contract. Once he is, Pickett will cost about $2 million against the salary cap after factoring in displacement. While this drops the Steelers under $20 million, it would not be enough to even make them lose one position on the current salary cap list as the Washingto Commanders are seventh at approximately $18.4 million.
Exactly what the Steelers and other teams with a decent portion of salary cap space look to do with it this year remains to be seen. While teams may be looking to sign some of their players long-term, others may look to roll over as much as possible in the next season. Of course, the most popular use of salary cap space, particularly to Steelers fans, would come in the form of adding another significant player to the roster.
Only time will tell if the Steelers will make a move or sign their own players beyond this season, but at least fans no longer have to ask the question “with what money?” when discussing moves for the coming season.