Share & Comment:

Examining the possibilities of a Cam Heyward extension

On the most recent episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast, I attempted to break down what a potential Cam Heyward contract extension could look like. There are a lot of factors involved in determining the value of the Steelers longest-tenured player and reigning Walter Payton Man of the Year. Rather than beat around the bush, let’s dive into things.

Before looking at different scenarios, let’s look into the factors and other contextual things in order to come up with the best scenario. Note: APY stands for “Average Per Year” which is all money paid over the life of the contract divided by the number of years.

Previous contract: $16.4 Million APY

In 2020, Cam Heyward signed a four-year extension with a total of $65.6 million which comes out to $16.4 million APY.

Current 2024 Cap Hit: $22,406,250

After a restructure of his contract in 2021, Heyward enters the last year of his current deal with a salary cap hit of just under $22.5 million.

Dead Money for 2024: $6,406,250

Finishing out his previous contract, Heyward has nearly $6.5 million in dead money for 2024. This is cash that has already been paid, but it has not been accounted for on the salary cap. There is no way to change or lower this number regardless of the status of Heyward for 2024.

Cash Due in 2024: $16 Million

When it comes to money actually due to be paid to Heyward for 2024, he’s due $16 million as a base salary.

Minimum 2024 Salary: $1.21 Million

When looking at extending Heyward, the lowest possible base salary he can be given in 2024 is $1.21 million.

Top DL contract: $31.75 Million APY (Chris Jones)

In looking at the market in the NFL for interior defensive linemen, the highest-paid player is Chris Jones who signed a five-year, $158.75 million deal this offseason. The APY for Jones came in just above that of Aaron Donald ($31.67 Million), who announced his retirement this offseason. The other highest-paid interior defensive lineman are Christian Wilkins ($27.5 million APY), Justin Madubuike ($24.5 million APY), Derek Brown ($24 million APY), Quinnen Williams ($24 million APY), Jeffery Simmons ($23.5 million APY), and DeForest Buckner ($23 million APY).

Projected Franchise Tag for 2025: $22.439 Million

For reference sake, it would cost the Steelers just over $22.4 million if they used the franchise tag on Heyward in 2025.

Comparable 2023 contract: $10 Million APY (Fletcher Cox)

A player who has been comparable to Cam Heyward both in skill and contract over their careers is Fletcher Cox of the Philadelphia Eagles. Cox signed a one-year deal with the Eagles last offseason for $10 million where he turned 33 years old in December. The previous contract, Cox had signed a one-year, $14 million deal. When it comes to defensive linemen currently under contract who will be 33 years old or more this coming season, there is no other contract from more than $8 million APY (DaQuan Jones, 33).

Projected Contract Length: 3 years (2024-2026), No Void Years

When looking at the extension for Heyward, I have it where it would be for three more seasons through 2026 to give the best possible numbers even if he doesn’t play that long. This would allow the Steelers to spread out the signing bonus the significant amount. Also, I am not including void years in these contract projections as the Steelers have never used them outside of the 2021 offseason. Instead, a base salary will be given.


For simplicity sake, I projected Heyward to have a base salary each additional year of the given APY. While it’s unlikely each year would be equal, it’s just a simple way of looking at things for now. Additionally, the idea of “base salary“ could include a roster bonus due early in the new year. It will simply be looked at as new money paid for that season and not be broken down.

Additionally, I do not have Heyward taking a pay cut in 2024 regardless of the APY. In all projections, Heyward will be given a minimum of $16 million between signing bonus and base salary for 2024 as this is what he is due to make this year under his current contract. For an APY over this amount, Heyward would be paid that amount this season, giving him a raise for 2024.

The dead cap numbers for each scenario are what the Steelers would take on that year if they were to release Heyward or if he were to retire (pre-June 1).

Status Quo: $16.5 Million APY

Rather than keep Heyward at the $16.4 million APY, I bumped it slightly to $16.5 million. This would give Hayward an extra half million dollars in a signing bonus. If the Steelers use the minimum base salary,they could save almost $9.7 million on the 2024 salary cap.

Franchise Tag Equivalent: $22.5 Million APY

If the Steelers gave Heyward an equivalent salary of the projected 2025 salary cap, he would earn $6.5 million more this season than what he was due yet they could still save over $7.5 on the 2024 salary cap.

Discount Rate: $12 Million APY

Although some Steelers fans might want to see Heyward taking even less money in what would be his final NFL contract, I went with the average APY for Fletcher Cox over his last two one-year deals. He would still get $16 million his first year and still saves $9.86 million on the 2024 salary cap. By having a discounted APY of $12 million over the last two years of the contract, it would reduce the seers cap in those seasons.

Note: The $9.86 million cap savings is the most the Steelers could have in 2024 while still paying Heyward his money due for 2024 with the lowest possible base salary and the contract being for three more seasons.

Market Value: $19.5 Million APY

At, Cam Heyward is projected to have a market value of $19.6 million. Rounding down to $19.5 million, this would give Heyward an additional $3.5 million in 2024 while potentially still lowering his cap hit by almost $8.7 million. In return, Heyward’s cap hits for the next two seasons would be higher than what it is currently for 2024.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to an extension for Cam Heyward, as long as it for two additional years it will reduce his cap hit for 2024 assuming the Steelers give the majority of his money this season as his signing bonus and not the base salary. The Steelers could choose to give more money as a base and less as a bonus to help future dead money hits, so don’t completely rule that out as a possibility. Ultimately what a Heyward extension comes down to is how much more than $16 million he would be given this season and what would his base salary be in the remaining years of the contract.


Sign up below for the latest news, stories and podcasts from our affiliates

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.