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Predicting the Steelers offseason - Part Six: Le’Veon Bell’s contract and final 53-man roster

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In the sixth, and final, part of the series, we look at the numbers behind Le’Veon Bell’s projected contract, and put the final touches on the 53-man roster.

Divisional Round - Pittsburgh Steelers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Here is the sixth, and last, installment of my journey as the Steelers’ GM for the 2017 offseason. This trek has wound through free agency, the NFL draft (still licking my wounds), rolling out the Steelers’ long-term contracts, and now I finish up with the final touches on the high dollar contracts along with my final projected 53-man roster for the 2017-2018 season. It has been a fun series to write and I hope it has generated good discussion at the least.

Players under contract – 87 (The top three draft picks have not yet signed.)

Current cap space -- $11,172,824

Now time to turn my sights to Stephon Tuitt’s extension. His sack totals declined from 6.5 in 2015 to only 4in 2016, but that is attributed to him drawing more attention from opponents’ offenses with Cam Heyward on IR after seven games. The 46th-overall pick in the 2014 draft is viewed as a building block for the Steelers’ young defense. He’s only 24, so I try and talk him into a five-year deal — but Tuitt will only settle for a four-year extension, hoping to land another big contract before the age of 30. He nabs a modest increase from his 2017 salary of $1.5 million. The new four-year contract worth $36 million includes a $7 million signing bonus.

2017 cap structure — $5 million base salary, $1.75 million total prorated bonus. Cap hit — $6.75 million.

2018 cap structure — $7 million base salary, $1,750,000 million total prorated bonus. Cap hit — $8.75 million.

2019 cap structure — $8 million base salary, $1,750,000 million total prorated bonus. Cap hit — $9.75 million.

2020 cap structure — $8 million base salary, $1,750,000 million total prorated bonus. Cap hit — $9.75 million.

Le’Veon Bell, even though suspended three games and sitting out Week 17, still put up stats that rivaled those of his 2014 breakout campaign. Averaging 105.7 yards per game rushing was good enough for second in the league. Bell’s versatility shined with 75 receptions for 616 yards, just shy of David Johnson’s league-leading mark of 80. Much has been made of his injury history (Bell bowed out of another playoff game in 2016) along with his multiple suspensions. Even so, his value to the Black and Gold is just too high not to lock him up with a multi-year deal. I protect the Steelers with the roster bonus money — but I had to agree to only a four-year commitment as a concession for the roster bonus protection. This will allow Bell to sign one last mega contract before he turns 30. Bell’s four-year $48 million deal includes a $15 million signing bonus.

2017 cap structure — $5 million base salary, $3.75 million total prorated bonus. Cap hit — $8.75 million.

2018 cap structure — $7 million base salary, $3.75 million total prorated bonus and $1 million roster bonus. Cap hit — $11.75 million.

2019 cap structure — $7 million base salary, $3.75 million total prorated bonus and $2 million roster bonus. Cap hit — $12.75 million.

2020 cap structure — $9 million base salary, $3,750,000 million total prorated bonus and $2 million roster bonus. Cap hit — $14.75 million.

The placekicking position got a shot in the arm when the Steelers brought in Chris Boswell in 2016. Bos was 21 for 25 on FG attempts and converted on all 26 of his extra point attempts. The Steelers need to lock up the 25-year-old kicker, bringing back the stability to the position that Steeler Nation enjoyed under Shaun Suisham. The pact is for four years with a total value of $8.8 million.

2017 cap structure — $1.4 million base salary, $200,000 total prorated bonus. Cap hit — $1.6 million.

2018 cap structure — $2 million base salary, $200,000 total prorated bonus. Cap hit — $2.2 million.

2019 cap structure — $2 million base salary, $200,000 total prorated bonus. Cap hit — $2.2 million.

2020 cap structure — $2.6 million base salary, $200,000 total prorated bonus. Cap hit — $2.8 million.

I am a huge proponent of Ross Cockrell and see him as a key cog in our ever-improving secondary. The 25-year-old plucked off the scrap heap from the Buffalo Bills has been a pleasant surprise. In a three-game span against Miami, New England and Baltimore (all three losses), Cockrell gave up a mere 0.25 yards per snap. You read that right -- that is five catches for 24 yards. 5-year contract worth $30 million includes a $5 million signing bonus.

2017 cap structure — $1 million base salary, $1 million total prorated bonus. Cap hit — $2 million.

2018 cap structure — $4 million base salary, $1 million total prorated bonus. Cap hit — $5 million.

2019 cap structure — $5 million base salary, $1 million total prorated bonus. Cap hit — $6 million.

2020 cap structure — $7 million base salary, $1 million total prorated bonus. Cap hit — $8 million.

2020 cap structure —$7 million base salary, $1 million total prorated bonus. Cap hit — $8 million.

Getting our three remaining rookies under contract is a slam dunk with how the contracts are now slotted. Rookies are locked into their four-year commitments with offset language included. I sign Gerald Everett (1st round, $1,675,842), Jordan Willis (2nd round $760,971) Eddie Jackson (3rd round $647,835)

Alejandro Villanueva has been a pleasant surprise the past couple seasons at left tackle. If you do not know his story, get familiar with it, very inspiring one!!! AV brought stability to an improved line the past two seasons. As an ERFA he comes cheap at a time that the Steelers need cheap. I wanted to extend him, but just impossible to do so financially. We will keep him next season at a reasonable price if no deal can be struck before the 2018 league year starts. As AV will be a RFA in 2018, a first-round tender will be on the table.

Cap numbers as of Sept. 5, 2017.

Team salary cap — $171,269,367

Top 51 — $166,855,631

Practice squad — $1 (10 players)

$3,413,736 carryover for 2018.

Projected 53-man roster:

Offense: 24

QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Zach Mettenberger

RB: Le’Veon Bell, Elijah McGuire, Karlos Williams

FB: Roosevelt Nix

WR: Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers, Jalen Robinette, Sammie Coates,

TE: Jesse James, Gerald Everett, Xavier Grimble

OL: Mike Pouncey, Ramon Foster, David DeCastro, Alejandro Villanueva, Marcus Gilbert, Ryan Harris, Chris Hubbard, Jerald Hawkins, B.J. Finney

Special teams 3

LS: Greg Warren

K: Chris Boswell

P: Jordan Berry

Defense: 26

DT: Cam Hayward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, Dan McCullers, L. T. Walton, Ricardo Mathews

OLB: James Harrison, Bud Dupree, Jordan Willis, Alex Okafor

ILB: Ryan Shazier, Gerald Hodges,Vince Williams, Conner Harris, Tyler Matakevich,

CB: Artie Burns, Ross Cockrell, D. J. Hayden, William Gay, Senquez Golson

S: Mike Mitchell, Sean Davis, Robert Blanton, Robert Golden, Eddie Jackson

In case you missed one of the previous articles, you can read them below:

Predicting the Steelers offseason: Part 1

Predicting the Steelers offseason: Part 2

Predicting the Steelers offseason: Part 3

Predicting the Steelers offseason: Part 4

Predicting the Steelers offseason: Part 5