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Predicting the Steelers offseason - Part One: Free Agent questions

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I am taking over Steelers’ GM Kevin Colbert’s job in the offseason. Will I succeed or fail?

Pittsburgh Steelers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert is considered one of the better GMs in the NFL. With that being said, I have decided to shove him aside and do his job for him this offseason. While he has been schmoozing at the Super Bowl, I have been hard at work crafting the Steelers’ offseason plan.

I will break the offseason down into three segments:

  • Free agency prior to the NFL draft
  • The NFL draft
  • Post Draft until the week leading up to the regular season.

In the first part of this multi-part series, the Steelers will try to retain their own players, while not breaking the bank. Keep in mind that anytime a player is signed above the Top 51 rule, a player comes off.

Disclaimer: I am not a cap wizard, NFL draft pro, or free-agent guru. This is intended to be a fun series aimed at provoking good conversation.

2017 Free agency prior to NFL draft

Just a quick reminder of where our cap stands (estimated)

NFL projected cap number – $168 million

Carryover from 2016 season – $3,269,367

Top 51 (44 under contract) – $128,330,412

Dead money – $2,395,222

Current cap space -- $40,543,733

12 reserve/future contracts -- $5,580,000 (Does not count towards cap until at least March 9. Each contract is worth $465,000.)

February 1 through March 8

Unrestricted free agents (UFA)

I have decided to not extend contracts to Steven Johnson, Jarvis Jones, Cody Wallace, David Johnson, Markus Wheaton, and Shamarko Thomas. They have either been injured or ineffective. Unfortunately, Colbert low-balled Lawrence Timmons last season and now Timmons will not take a hometown discount. He’s heading down the road, and he will be sorely missed, especially coming off such a solid season. DeAngelo Williams hangs his cleats up after 11 seasons, and this creates a big hole to fill.

Now for the tough part – I have to get those other UFAs to sign on the dotted line.

I score a big win for Steeler Nation and convince James Harrison to sign on for another year. He talks me into a one-year deal with a $500,000 signing bonus and $1.5 million in base salary. Cap hit – $2 million.

Ricardo Mathews was not a standout for us, but contributed on a banged-up D line. I play a bit of hardball and get him back on a two-year deal worth $1.8 million with no bonus money. Cap hit – $900,000.

I slap Le'Veon Bell with the non-exclusive franchise tag in late February. Knowing this will be a long, drawn-out media frenzy, I patiently wait it out. Once the tag is applied it immediately counts against the salary cap. Bell grumbles about the tag, but I know he has zero leverage. Cap hit – $12.377 million.

Oh, did you Landry Jones fans think I forgot about him? I did not. LJ is brought back with a modest three-year contract worth $10.5 million. LJ knows the system and I have faith in his fill-in abilities. The contract breaks down to $3 million per season with a $1.5 million signing bonus. Cap hit – $3.5 million

You Zach Mettenberger fans, do not be mad that I am sticking with LJ -- plenty more to read!

Restricted free agents (RFA)

The loss of Emmanuel Sanders still sticks in my craw, and I will not let that happen with Ross Cockrell. A second-round tender should be good enough to ward off other teams. Cockrell played well enough -- he deserves it. We will work on getting him extended. Cap hit – $2.75 million.

Chris Hubbard is in a different boat as he was not drafted. There is absolutely no way I can tender Hubbard and thus he will immediately become a UFA. His tender would be $1.8 million; we can not afford that. I do make the promise to ink him. He ends up re-signing to a one-year deal. Cap hit -- $800,000.

Exclusive rights free agents (ERFA)

With UFA and RFA players under contract now, I turn my sights to our exclusive-rights free agents. These four players are tendered at the league minimum. Alejandro Villanueva, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Anthony Chickillo and B.J. Finney all will be extended minimum contracts of $615,000.

You're shocked that AV will make so little money, right? The contract is just a formality, and contract negotiations will open in July for him and others. I know he has no leverage and has to sign the deal. With a handshake, I promise a deal gets done and he gets treated right. Total cap hit -- $2,460,000

I sit back with a big grin on my face at the progress that has been made so far. Laurels can not be rested upon. I know there are plenty of other holes to be filled. Some will be filled during the FA period, others will be filled during the NFL draft.

So after these hypothetical moves:

Players under contract -- 55

Starting cap room -- $40,543,733

Cap spent -- $24,787,000

Pre FA cap space -- $15,756,733