Heading into free agency, the Steelers cap space is rather tight. They don’t have a lot to work with at the moment.
They’re going to need cap space to re-sign their upcoming free agents and make a splash or two at a position of need. The first course of action the Steelers usually take is cutting guys to save cap and restructuring some contracts.
The way this works is the Steelers convert a part of the player’s base salary and/or roster bonus into a signing bonus, creating the extra cap space they need and giving the players more guaranteed money in the future. The only negative to this is it pushes extra dead cap in future years.
Under Omar Khan, the Steelers have done a good job of creating cap space in prior years, especially when they were over the cap. They are just barely under the cap this year, so they’ll have to get a hand from some team-friendly players, and there could be a good bit of them.
- TJ Watt – Watt’s cap hit this year is nearly $30M. Worth every single penny! Watt restructured his deal last year and created $6.75M. He’ll probably agree to do it again and the Steelers could save a good bit by converting some of his base salaries into a signing bonus.
- Cameron Heyward – Another guy that is no stranger to restructuring his deals. He’s been doing it for years. This year probably will be no different. Steelers could even add an extra year in his contract to lower the cap hit without having to restructure. If that happens, that will run his contract until his brother Connor’s rookie deal is up.
- Minkah Fitzpatrick – He just signed his well-deserved extension last preseason. And after another great year for the elite safety, restructure his deal to give him a nicer payday?
- Diontae Johnson – I’d rather him take a pay cut, but that’s not likely. Out of everyone on the list, Diontae seems the most unlikely to receive a restructured contract due to the Steelers possibly not wanting to create more dead cap in the final year of his contract in 2024.
- Myles Jack – Jack could actually be a cap casualty and save the Steelers $8M if cut. But is it smart for the Steelers to go into the offseason with ZERO MLB dependability? Jack should return for a prove-it year, under a restructured contract. I can’t see him returning with an $11.25M cap hit.
- Chukwuma Okorafor – Chuks is expected to return as the Steelers starting RT for another season and I think he’s done enough to earn another year, just under a smaller cap hit. His cap hit last year was very team friendly, so why not take a good $4M-$5M and convert that into a signing bonus?
- James Daniels – Daniels’s cap hit this year is nearly $11.2M. Similar to Chuks, when he signed his 3-year contract he took a team-friendly cap hit in year 1. He should be a strong candidate to get a restructure.
- Mason Cole – The starting 3 from center to right tackle should all return, but all should have lesser cap hits. Cole’s cap hit of nearly $7M isn’t a dying change but seeing how the 3 starting guys on the right side of the line had similar year 1 contracts, keep them all together under more team-friendly deals.
All this could save the Steelers nearly $40M in cap space. Not every player listed will get a restructured contract, but it’s expected some will. With cuts coming next month, they might not need to restructure as much. Time will tell, but if prior years have told us anything, Omar Khan is a financial wizard and will get the Steelers out of this corner again!
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