The Pittsburgh Steelers are rolling through the 2023 offseason. After signing numerous free agents, the team is preparing for the 2023 NFL draft at the end of the month.
One thing the Steelers continually have to stay one step ahead of is their salary cap situation. According to my most recent salary cap update, I have the Steelers sitting with approximately $9.8 million of cap space at this time.
So while this number sounds great, it’s still not enough for what the Steelers will need once it comes to signing their draft class, when the 52nd and 53rd contracts count on the salary cap, signing the practice squad, and expenses throughout the season such as elevating players from the practice squad. While this does not mean the Steelers can’t spend the money that they have now, it just means that they will still have to do more to create some space at some point.
Although releasing a player could save on the cap depending on the salary, the focus of this article is to outline the players the Steelers could still restructure in order to save money for 2023. As a reminder, a restructure for a player is when the team converts other parts of their salary, such as a base salary or roster bonus, into a signing bonus they spread out throughout the life of the contract as to when it counts against the salary cap. Players that are on the last year of their deal have no benefit in being restructured as there is no cap savings. Those players would need a contract extension.
The following is a list of all the players the Steelers could restructure and save at least $2 million for 2023. Remember, the bill always comes due at some point so if these players are restructured the money simply gets pushed forward into future gears. Additionally, while there are a number of contracts the Steelers can restructure, there is one I would advise against. Restructure amounts common courtesy of overthecap.com (OTC).
Potential savings: $12,613,333
This is the big one for the Steelers but it also acts as their safety net. If they followed suit from 2022, the Steelers would be wise to hold off as long as possible on a T.J. Watt restructure and see how much the team needs for 2023. If so, they would not need to restructure T.J. Watt for the full amount but only the amount they needed. The Steelers wisely did this last season and may be holding off on doing it again. With T.J. Watt having three more years on his deal including 2023, the more than $12.6 million they could save would be pushed into each of the remaining years at the rate of more than $6.3 million each and would have Watt’s cap number nearing $37 million over the final two years of his contract. But if the Steelers find they only need another $5 million heading into the season, they would simply convert $7.5 million of Watt’s base salary into a signing bonus and it would only add $2.5 million to 2024 in 2025.
Potential savings: $4,710,000
When it comes to the amount the Steelers could save with Diontae Johnson, it is an assumption by OTC that Johnson’s $2.5 million roster bonus he was due in March is something that can still be converted into a signing bonus. If so, the Steelers could push off $4.71 million into the final year remaining on Johnson‘s contract and have some wiggle room. The biggest problem with this is it would boost Johnson‘s cap number to over $20.5 million for 2024 with more than $10 million in dead money if the Steelers chose to not have Johnson on the roster after the season.
Potential savings: $4,460,000
Much like Diontae Johnson, a restructure for Chuks Okorafor would push all the savings into a greater cap hit for next year. Additionally, this figure is based on assuming that Okorafor’s roster bonus was written in a way that it could be converted to a signing bonus. While getting Okorafor’s cap hit for 2023 under $10 million would be appealing, looking at a cap number of over $16 million for 2024 is a little rough especially since almost half of it would be dead money.
Potential savings: $3,585,000
With no roster bonus to worry about, James Daniels could save the Steelers more than $3.5 million against the salary cap this year and would keep his dead money for next season under $6.5 million to go with a salary cap number under $15 million.
Potential savings: $2,160,000
Although it’s just over $2 million the Steelers could save by restructuring Mason Cole, sometimes it’s the smaller restructures which don’t seem too bad. Even pushing all this money into 2024 as that’s all that’s left on Cole‘s deal, he would still have a cap number of under $8.5 million next year.
Potential savings: $2,156,250
Out of all the restructures other than T.J. Watt, this is the one that makes the most sense. Once again, it’s operating under the assumption that Boswell’s $1.3 million roster bonus from March is eligible to be converted into a signing bonus. If so, the $2 million the Steelers could save in a restructure would be spread out over the life of the contract which goes through the 2026 season. Restructuring Boswell adds less than $720k to his salary cap number over the next three years. In all honesty, I’m surprised the Boswell restructure hasn’t happened yet.
Potential savings: $7,342,500
While he is not the only player on the Pittsburgh Steelers whose restructure would only be spread to the very next season, the more than $7 million the Steelers could save on Cam Heyward would make for an even more crippling situation in 2024. Yes, this amount would save more than anybody else other than T.J. Watt. Additionally, if this money isn’t used and is left over from this year and carries over in the next year, it really didn’t matter when it counted. But looking at Cam Heyward and seeing a $29.7 million salary cap hit for 2024 looks unappealing. Additionally having $13.7 million in debt of money is a lot of kicking the can down the road for a player who would be 35 in 2024. Based on the high dollar amounts and the players age, I would use Heyward’s restructure only a last resort.
So these are the moves the Steelers can make in order to save some money without having to cut any players for 2023. If the Steelers would do all of these restructures, including Cam Heyward‘s, they could save more than $36 million. But the Steelers actually needing this amounts doesn’t appear to be the case at this time.
So which contracts would you restructure going forward for the 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers? Make sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below.