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Steelers salary cap implications of the Kevin Dotson trade

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the process of making a number of roster moves in order to ultimately get their roster down to 53 players by 4 PM EST on Tuesday. While many players who are released will not have a huge impact on the salary cap, the Steelers most significant move to date was the announcement on Sunday night that they have traded guard Kevin Dotson to the Los Angeles Rams.

So how does the movement of Dotson affect the Steelers salary cap?

Kevin Dotson was in the final year of his rookie contract which was signed in 2020. According to (OTC), Dotson had a $658,812 signing bonus back in 2020 which was prorated across all four years at $164,703. This is the amount of dead money the Steelers will take on from the trading of Dotson. For the final year of his contract, Dotson was due to make $2.743 million in base salary which ultimately left him with a $2,907,703 salary cap number. With the base salary now going to the Los Angeles Rams, the Steelers get the $2.743 million in salary cap relief before salary displacement.

Speaking of salary displacement at this time of the year is a very interesting subject. Until 4 PM on Tuesday, only the top 51 salaries for the Steelers are counted against the salary cap. So for at least one more day, Dotson coming off the books slides another contract, currently at the value of $940k, up into the top 51 salaries. For that reason, the ultimate salary cap savings from the Dotson trade is $1.803 million.

The natural next question is where the Steelers now stand with the salary cap.

For those who follow my salary cap articles throughout the offseason, I keep a running tab from the beginning of the league year and attempt to track every dollar on and off the salary cap. The problem is when the Steelers get to training camp and players are on and off the roster. The bigger issue is when players are injured and how they are treated following their injury. While these numbers go on the salary cap, sometimes getting a report is the bigger problem.

According to OTC, the Steelers have four players on injured reserve for the 2023 season in Rennell Wren, Cory Trice, Alfonzo Graham, and Chapelle Russell. These are not the only players who were waved/injured throughout training camp as the other players have received an injury settlement. While these numbers aren’t overly significant, they are enough when tracking a precise salary cap number to change things as well as adding all of them together. The only player I have been able to find anything about how much they count towards the salary cap with an injury settlement is Cody White who, according to OTC, now has a $79,167 dead money charge to the Steelers in 2023. This would be an injury settlement for three weeks of the regular season at White’s split contract rate.

Unfortunately, I do not have the information for other players at this time, so the Steelers salary cap space is ultimately an estimation. In giving it my best guess, I would put the Steelers salary cap space of at least $10.5 million which includes taking into account the players who are already on the reserve/injured list.

As cuts continue to come in today and tomorrow, they will affect the Steelers salary cap. Additionally, when the Steelers add another two salaries when they are at 53 players, it will drop this number at minimum $1.5 million and more realistically to $1.65 million depending on which players the Steelers keep.

The most important thing is the Steelers do not have to worry about the salary cap situation ahead of cutting down to the 53 players on Tuesday. The Steelers have enough money for their additional players on the roster and to sign their practice squad. The only concern is how much money the Steelers want to take into the 2023 season to continue to conduct business. If the Steelers wish to have more salary cap space at their disposal, look for a potential partial restructure of a player such as T.J. Watt in order to give them a little more cushion. But the ultimate determination as to how much money the Steelers will need for the 2023 season will come down to which players they keep versus who they release in trimming the roster down to 53 players.


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