Happy New Year!
The official start of the 2020 league calendar begins today at 4:00 PM ET. While a plethora of moves have been made prior, all transactions can become official with the introduction of the new calendar.
A quick recap of all that's happened thus far:
Cuts- Mark Barron, Anthony Chickillo, Johnny Holton
As far as cuts go, no names were more obvious than Barron and Chickillo. Both linebackers contributed far less than their price tags suggested, as neither truly had the impact the front office desired in 2019. Holton may have came as a surprise to some, but with the receiver saving nearly $1 million in a dire cap situation, the decision may have been easier than originally suggested.
Retired- Ramon Foster
The retirement, announced by Foster via instagram, was felt by the entire Pittsburgh community. Players, coaches and media members shared tremendous words about Foster's time on the field, as he will be missed for his leadership on the gridiron and inside the locker room as well. It remains unclear the true reason Foster stepped away, as the team was likely to depart with him for cap relief reasons.
Regardless, Foster's contributions to the Steelers for the last decade will be greatly remembered.
Tagged- Bud Dupree
If you followed the Steelers at any point through the 2019 season, you could see this coming a mile away. Pittsburgh obviously liked what they saw out of Bud Dupree and would like his services to remain with the team- at least for one more season. The question now becomes: Long-term or short-term?
While the negotiating table is the place for that battle, Dupree is set to make about $15.8 million on the franchise tag according to recent tag projections. The Steelers have until July 15 to reach a long-term deal with Dupree.
Signed With New Teams- B.J. Finney, Javon Hargrave, Tyler Matakevich
With all three players providing crucial roles in 2019, it was difficult to imagine the Steelers bringing back Finney, Hargrave or Matakevich given the financial circumstances. Finney signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks, while Tyler Matakevich found a new home in Buffalo with a two-year deal worth up to $9 million.
Of course, the cash-cow of the group (Hargrave) became the highest-paid nose tackle in the league, signing a three-year, $39 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles ($26 million guaranteed).
Call the Brinks truck!
Restructured Deals- Ben Roethlisberger, Steven Nelson, Joe Haden, Chris Boswell, Vance McDonald
Per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers saved nearly $35 million on the salary cap by reworking the deals of the aforementioned players.
The good news? The team now has more financial freedom than ever before. The increased cap room allows for the team to place tenders on Matt Feiler and Mike Hilton while also clearing room for the upcoming draft class and other potential free-agents as well.
The bad news? 2021's cap figures look pretty excessive. Roethlisberger's cap hit will be $40 million in 2021, an astronomical figure to say the least. This doesn't include the additional cap hits for the other restructured players as well.
However, if the cap jumps up anywhere close to the $30-$40 million it potentially could hit in 2021, the toll will be a tad less heavy.
Tendered- Mike Hilton, Matt Feiler
The Steelers (very wisely) placed second-round tenders on Mike Hilton and Matt Feiler on Tuesday. By placing the tender on Hilton/Feiler, this gives the Steelers the opportunity to match any offer made, and if declined by Pittsburgh, the team would receive a second-round pick from the team signing said player.
Via OverTheCap, the below tables represents the 2020 values of each tender:
Keeping both Feiler and Hilton for about $6.5 million together is an absolute bargain for what both respective players provide. The tenders are a win-win, as the league either recoups the player on a bargain deal or is provided with a high draft pick in exchange.
One thing to keep an eye on: Hilton was hesitant to sign his tender last season, as he and his camp are trying for a long-term deal in Pittsburgh. His tender in 2019 was good for $645,000, so the multi-million bump may be enough for Hilton in the short-term.
Added to Reserve/Retired List- Ryan Shazier
Despite not playing since 2017, Ryan Shazier has become an active part of the Steelers organization since he last stepped on the field. Pittsburgh again kept Shazier around the team to ensure the linebacker still being taken care of.
"Ryan's placement on the Reserve/Retired List serves as a matter of protocol to ensure his continued inclusion within our organization moving forward in his professional career." said Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert in a statement.
Re-signed- Zach Banner, Kam Canaday
The Steelers made their first signing of the 2020 season by re-signing long-snapper Kameron Canaday to a two-year deal, while fan-favorite Zach Banner re-signed on a one-year deal worth $1.75 million.
While Canaday's starting job isn't in jeopardy, it appears Banner is set to take on Chukwuma Okorafor in what is expected to be a battle for the starting right tackle position.
Quite the splash to begin the new year.
Newly Signed- Derek Watt
2/3 Watt brothers are now in Pittsburgh, as the Steelers signed former LA Chargers fullback Derek Watt to a three-year, $9.75 million deal. Needless to say, brother T.J. Watt is pretty excited.
So, with all the above already accomplished for the Steelers before pen is able to hit paper, what's next for Pittsburgh?
PPG's Gerry Dulac spoke with team president Art Rooney on Tuesday, and is reporting defensive linemen Cameron Heyward is expected to sign a new deal following the start of the new league year. The deal is expected to help in creating more cap space.
While Rooney did say the team was done releasing players "for now", the move of adding fullback Derek Watt (which came after Rooney's claim) brings expectations of releasing Roosevelt Nix.
Whether Watt was brought here for special teams, better fullback availability or simply to keep brother T.J. happy, The Athletic's Mark Kaboly says he'll be Pittsburgh's first ever "opening day" free agent signing.
With a plethora of moves already in the bag and work still left to do from the front office, the Steelers appear to be as proactive as any other in the league as 2020 officially gets underway.