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Due to signing bonuses and guarantees on contracts with multiple seasons still remaining, some players would actually create more of a cap issue if they were released
With the Pittsburgh Steelers up against the salary cap for the 2020 season, much discussion has been made about which players may become cap casualties this off-season. While there are several players who can save the Steelers a significant amount of space under the salary cap, there are several players on the team which would cost more against the cap than to keep them for the season.
Here is a list of the five Steelers who would be more beneficial to stay on the roster than it would be to release them for the 2020 season. Granted, most of these players the Steelers would not consider moving on from anytime soon based on their on-field production. But even though their departure would be highly unlikely even without their salary cap situation, it never hurts to know the numbers. All figures listed are courtesy of overthecap.com and reflect if the player was a pre-June 1 cut.
Only a fool would suggest a team who traded up in the first round of the draft to select a player should release them after just one season. Devin Bush is not going anywhere with the Steelers for a long time. Not only would it cost just over $11 million in 2020, it would cost over $6 million in 2021. In fact, there would be no cap savings for cutting Bush in the next three seasons. It’s a good thing the Steelers wouldn’t even consider the notion of moving on from Bush.
With the second largest salary cap number for 2020 only behind quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, some fans have asked how much the Steelers would save if they moved on from Tuitt. With injuries becoming a factor, many wonder if to it is worth his high salary. At least for the 2020 season, releasing Tuitt would actually hurt his cap number. If the Steelers considered moving on from Tuitt in 2021, they would at least save a little bit on the cap (about $3 million) but would still be taking a huge dead money hit. It would not be until the 2022 season where to it would actually save a larger amount of money ($9 million) then it would be as a dead money hit if Tuitt were to stay ($6 million).
Part of the reason Tuitt’s contract is outlined in this way is because of the restructure that was done in 2019. In order to save some money for last year’s salary cap, most of his 2019 base contract was converted to a bonus so it was spread out over the next three seasons. And with special rules governing the final year of a CBA where only 30% of a player’s salary can be extended out each year beyond the current season, restructuring Tuitt’s contract again is not realistic.
Given the various factors of the Steelers giving up a first-round pick for Fitzpatrick, his recent All-Pro status, and the fact he is on his rookie deal which costs the Steelers minimally towards the salary cap, Fitzpatrick may be the most stable player to remain on the Steelers the next two seasons. Not only is he an extreme value as a rookie, there is no salary cap savings to be had through the remainder of his rookie deal.
Edmunds is in a very similar situation as Fitzpatrick as they were taken in the first round of the same draft. The biggest difference with the Steelers is they are still have Edmunds’ initial signing bonus going towards the salary cap for the remainder of his contract where Fitzpatrick’s is only on the books of the Miami Dolphins. While some fans have grown frustrated with Edmunds play, the notion of cutting him would actually cost the Steelers more than $2 million against this year’s salary cap. As a general rule, cutting a player on their rookie deal is not a wise financial move unless the player is simply never going to see the field. But for those screaming for Edmunds to no longer be on the Steelers, 2021 would give the Steelers just over $1 million in cap relief if he were to be released then. But I wouldn’t count on it.
Of all the players listed who would cost the Steelers more against the salary cap if they were released, Boswell is by far the lowest amount. With only $25k added to the salary cap, the Steelers could move on from Boswell realistically. But this is 2020 and not 2019. After Boswell’s 2018 performance, his future with the Steelers was in question. But in a fantastic bounce back year, there’s no reason to think Boswell won’t be the Steelers first option moving forward.
So these are the only five players where it would not benefit the Steelers salary cap by releasing them prior to June 1. While there are plenty of other players who would carry a large dead-money value which would detract to the team for moving on, actually costing the Steelers cap space by their departure means these five players won’t be going anywhere. Of course, this is strictly from a numbers perspective. When factoring on-the-field performance, it would be foolish for the Steelers to cut ties with any of these five players.