5 potential salary extensions for the 2024 Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers are headed toward the 2024 NFL league year in March, and as the Steelers roster currently stands, they are projected to be over this year’s salary cap. The exact amount the Steelers are over is arbitrary as the exact 2024 salary cap or the Steelers carryover from this past season have yet to be determined. But the Steelers are not currently ready to be cap compliant but don’t have to worry about the issue for quite some time.
When it comes to creating cap space, there are three main tools used in order to move around the money. The Steelers could simply release a player and take the dead money hit while saving the players base salary for the season. Another option is the Steelers could restructure the contract of players who have more than one season remaining on their deal. Finally, for those players who only have one year left who the Steelers would like to retain, they could work out a contract extension which would drop their 2024 salary cap number.
When looking at the Steelers current 2024 players under contract, there are potential cap savings in all of these categories. Looking at them one by one, first up was players who would be released as cap casualties. After that I looked at the players the Steelers could restructure their contracts if they so choose. The final category we will look at is the players who could be in line for a contract extension.
Here are the top five players who are most likely to be considered for a contract extension in order to lower their salary cap number for the 2024 season. These players are not listed in the order of their likelihood but by the amount of their 2024 cap hit. Remember, it is possible players could end up in multiple groups so there may be a name that has shown up previously. Additionally, because the Steelers have made it a policy to only do extensions when a player is going into the last year of their contract (except for the quarterback position), only players who fit this criteria will be listed.
Note: Base salary plus bonuses are listed for each player as that is usually what is used as a starting point (minus the league minimum base salary) for determining a possible signing bonus.
Cap Number: $22,406,250
Base Salary (plus bonuses): $16,000,000
It will be very curious to see exactly what the Steelers do when it comes to Cam Heyward’s contract for 2024. Although the more than $22 million cap hit is the second highest on the team only behind T.J. Watt, it’s also difficult to give an extension to a defensive lineman who will turn 35 this offseason. It’s possible Cam Heyward could get the Ben Roethlisberger treatment where he’s given a small extension at the end of his career knowing that he won’t likely play it out but will help spread out the money for now. But unlike in 2021 when it was the only offseason where the Steelers ever used void years in contracts, they would have to break from their tradition or settle on potential base salaries. Additionally, Heyward has already commented that he is not considering taking a reduction in salary as Roethlisberger did his final season in Pittsburgh. So the ultimate question is how many years the Steelers would have to add to Heyward‘s current contract to help spread out the nearly $14.8 million he would likely see as a signing bonus, opperating out of the assumption they would pay him the same amount in 2024 he was due. While all this is possible, it’s also possible that Heyward‘s situation holds and they simply take the large cap hit this year.
Cap Number: $15,833,334
Base Salary (plus bonuses): $10,000,000
Although Diontae Johnson’s cap number looks large, it’s actually half a million dollars less than last season. So it’s not that the Steelers can’t deal with this number if they simply want to let Johnson‘s contract play out and see where things lie. But with Johnson coming off two seasons of not reaching 1000 yards and only one season removed from not scoring any touchdowns, perhaps an extension wouldn’t be as costly this time around as Johnson’s last contract came off his best season in the NFL.
Cap Number: $11,166,668
Base Salary (plus bonuses): $8,250,000
If I were to bet on any player getting a contract extension this offseason, my money would be on James Daniels. Playing 32 of 34 potential regular season games over the last two years, Daniels has given the Steelers quality play and won’t turn 27 until the beginning of the 2024 season. If there is an extension for Daniels, it may reduce his cap number somewhat but would not be an earth shattering reduction, likely not saving more than $5 million.
Cap Number: $9,775,000
Base Salary (plus bonuses): $6,850,000
Falling into multiple categories, there’s a couple different ways that Steelers could go with Patrick Peterson. It doesn’t seem wise to keep him with a cap number pushing $10 million, but wanting to give him an extension is also tricky with Peterson turning 34 this summer. If the Steelers added one more year to his contract and gave him most of his salary this year as a signing bonus, it could reduce his cap number by about $2.75 million. So the bigger question is if Peterson is worth a $7 million cap hit for the season or if they should just take the $2.925 million in dead and money and move on.
Cap Number: $5,460,000
Base Salary (plus bonuses): $4,000,000
There were several options to use as the final player on this list but I ultimately went with Nate Herbig. Players such as Allen Robinson, Chuks Okorafor, and Mason Cole I feel are much more likely to be released. Additionally, Herbig has half a million dollars in base salary more than Elandon Roberts, and Herbig turns 26 this offseason while Roberts will hit the age of 30/ For those reasons it feel like a Herbig extension is more of a Steelers move. It would likely be small and for one or two more years. But because his overall salary isn’t through the roof, the cap savings for this year would be small and unlikely to even reach $2 million.
So here are my most likely candidates to be considered for a potential extension for the 2024 season. These are the ones that would possibly save the most money, so it does not mean that there won’t be others who could get extensions but simply won’t save as much.
After looking at all three categories of cuts, restructures, and extensions, the Steelers most likely path to save the greatest amount of money will be from releasing several players ahead of the new league year. While there is likely to be something from each category done, the cuts are what I believe will have the most impact on the salary cap.