Free agency is right around the corner and the Steelers should be making moves very soon.
One of the first sets of moves they do to start the offseason is creating cap space for re-signing and signing talent. Another year of decision-making decisions financially and some of these could be quite easy ones to make.
Let’s discuss some guys that may become cap casualties for the 2023 offseason:
William Jackson III
William Jackson was a trade deadline move for the Steelers that happened shortly after the Chase Claypool trade. While the Steelers finessed the Bears for a 2nd round pick, they only traded a conditional 2025 6th-round pick for the former first-round pick.
However, he never saw any action due to a back injury that placed him on IR and if you forgot he was part of the team, it’s not hard to see why.
William Jackson is due for a $12.2M cap hit if the Steelers elect to retain him. A pay cut could happen to ensure extra depth and experience at the position, but why do such a thing? Cut the ties and fish for something better. Cutting him would have zero loss and the Steelers save what they’d owe him.
Reportedly, the Steelers never desired to bring him back anyway, so William Jackson’s long-awaited time in Pittsburgh pretty much never happened.
The Steelers starting RT signed a 3-year, $29.5M extension last year to retain some of the offensive line. Pretty hefty for the former 3rd round pick, however, he only obtained a $4.3M cap hit last year. Pretty much a team-friendly prove-it-year deal with the option to opt out of his contract the next year.
This year is a bigger jump in the number as he now holds a $13.1M cap hit and if the Steelers were to cut him, they’d suffer $6.2M in dead cap.
Cutting him doesn’t seem like a real option because of that, but also, it’ll just create another hole in the line. Steelers have eyed a couple RT specific guys at the Senior Bowl as well.
Quite honestly, it’d be doing Chuks a little dirty seeing that he’s one of the few home-grown offensive linemen that’s done well, and he deserves to stay IMHO.
A pay cut is absolutely in order for him. It’ll be best for both sides and it retains someone dependable at RT.
This one is a big question mark, only because I have no clue what the future holds for Myles Jack. It’s no secret the MLB position has been a big issue for years now. It still is to an extent.
The addition of Jack last offseason was a big one. The true #1 ILB the Steelers needed besides Devin Bush. Sadly, he underperformed. Does that warrant him being cut completely?
Jack signed a 2 year, $16M deal with the option to have his contract opted out, as he has an $11.25M cap hit this year. Steelers could cut him and only suffer $3.25M in dead cap.
MLB is already such a big hole that cutting Jack would ensure they have no legit starters on the roster. Jack didn’t perform too well, but I think he should get a second season under a pay cut.
The cap they create could be used for the Steelers to make a splash at MLB in free agency to pair with Jack.
The starting QB for the first four weeks of the 2022 season could return as the backup for Kenny Pickett, especially considering that Mason Rudolph is a free agent, and the Steelers have no one else in the QB room.
But for a cap hit of $10.625M? Just not worth it. Mitch has already claimed he wished he didn’t make a decision so fast during last year’s free agency period, so it’s possible he tests free agency again. The Steelers would only suffer a dead cap hit of only $2.625M.
Unless the Steelers bring in a familiar face, re-sign Mason, or have a backup plan to backup Kenny, it’s hard to see Mitch go right now. If he does return, he should definitely take a pay cut.
The second CB on this list, Witherspoon was a strong candidate to return after an impressive finish to the 2021 season. 3 INTs and almost lockdown, about every Steelers fan, was pounding the table for the Steelers to re-sign this man. He signed a 2-year, $8M extension and would remain the starting CB opposite Cam Sutton to start the 2022 season.
Unfortunately, nothing from 2021 transferred to 2022 and his prior concerns of inconsistency crept up on him quickly. He started the first 3 games before suffering a hamstring injury that pretty much took him out all year. He only played 4 games and was placed on IR toward the end of the season.
Witherspoon holds a cap hit of $5.5M for 2023. Not a crazy amount, which could allow the Steelers to retain him. Cutting two experienced CBs this offseason probably isn’t good for the position, depth-wise, and the Steelers love that insurance. Jackson is almost guaranteed to be gone, can’t say the same for Witherspoon.
Another possible reason for his return could be the uncertainty of Cameron Sutton re-signing as he’s a pending free agent. I’d like to think he stays too.
Anyway, you look at it, the Steelers could have their starting CBs back for 2023 (for now). Levi Wallace will be back, and he had a strong finish to the season. Wallace and Witherspoon have similar contracts, but Wallace clearly outplayed Witherspoon to remain for another year. Fingers crossed Sutton re-signs. Where does Witherspoon go?
Depth is an option. Or Steelers could just cut him and suffer a minimal dead cap loss of $1.5M.
Adams was a mid-season signing off the Saints practice squad in 2021 due to all the injuries on the defensive line. In limited action, he did enough to earn a new contract and signed a 2-year, $5M deal.
He would eventually start over the aging Tyson Alualu and continues to show he’s a good rotational piece. Cutting Adams wouldn’t be a massive loss, but with Alualu (probably retiring), Chris Wormley, and Larry Ogunjobi all free agents, losing any more bodies on the defensive line isn’t ideal.
Gunner was signed as the replacement return specialist after Ray-Ray McCloud left for San Francisco. It didn’t take long for him to get involved in Matt Canada’s jet sweep offense and show his flaws on special teams. Steven Sims would take his reps as the primary return specialist and show he’s more trustworthy.
If Sims returns, Gunner’s days could be numbered, especially with Calvin Austin III making his long-awaited debut and the re-signing of Anthony Miller.
Cutting Gunner would save $2M. Not exactly a cap casualty, but also no reason to retain him.
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