There has been an enormous amount of speculation on BTSC in regard to the Pittsburgh Steelers taking a quarterback with their first-round selection. Plenty of fans want to make such a move now.
Is this the right move or the wrong move?
Are there other positions that need to be addressed?
The focus here is on what happens if the Steelers take a QB with the first-round pick and our future Hall of Fame QB does not hang up his cleats until after 2019 or even later.
Ben Roethlisberger wavered on the possibility of retiring in the offseason. He laid this possibility to rest, but just the idea of it had fans squirming. Was he frustrated by losing to the New England Patriots again? Was he frustrated by his body breaking down further and requiring surgery during the 2016 season? Was he frustrated with some teammates’ “me first” attitude? Was he simply being a drama queen and wanting the spotlight? Whatever the reason, he didn’t retire. Could/will the issue resurface in 2018? Could this be the final year of his career even though he is under contract through 2019? Could he play beyond 2019?
There are 29.4 million reasons Roethlisberger will not hang up his cleats after 2017. Of that amount, $12.4 million is bonus money that has been paid to him already in the form of signing bonus money in his last contract, so if he retires, he could be asked to repay it. Would the Steelers’ front office ask Big Ben to repay that money? Would he allow an additional $17 million in base salary and roster bonuses to slide through his fingers in both 2018 and 2019? Only Ben can answer those questions. The rest of Steeler Nation will be left hanging in the wind.
So let’s get all wild and crazy and have the Steelers pick a QB with Pick No. 30 in this year’s draft. It does not matter if he is pro ready or not, he is not going to overtake Ben on the depth chart as long as Big Ben remains healthy and on the team. It is debatable that this new QB would even overtake Landry Jones on the depth chart. Do not forget, LJ is signed through 2018. Whether you like LJ or not, he knows the Steelers’ complicated offensive playbook and its terminology. So, what happens to this newcomer if Big Ben plays out his contract that runs through 2019? And what happens if Roethlisberger wants to play even after 2019 for the Black and Gold?
First-round contracts are now worked so that they are four-year deals with a club option for a fifth season. That fifth season is calculated by averaging the third- through 25th-highest salaries at the QB position for the year it is exercised. Here is the caveat: That fifth-year option must be picked up by the end of April after his third season. While it is only guaranteed for injury, it is still a significant amount for a QB who, at that point, potentially has not yet even seen the field in the regular season.
For perspective: As it stands right now, that figure for a fifth-year option exercised this season for 2019 would stand at $17.7 million. We all know that NFL contracts only go up, not down. So it is not out of the realm of possibility that our QB of the future who has never taken a snap in the NFL would be signing an option that exceeds $20 million. What happens in the event that he sustains a devastating knee injury in the first quarter of his first game in 2020, such as the injury that has befallen Teddy Bridgewater? Easy. Pittsburgh would be on the hook for that $20 million. Would we look to trade this QB if the Steelers’ future Hall of Fame QB decides to play in 2020?
One thing that is for sure, we will know by the end of April 27 if we used our first round pick on a QB. But the answer that will not be clear for years to come is — what will his role be?