A little less than two months from today, the 2023 NFL league year will start and at that time all 32 teams will need to be compliant with the Rule of 51 regarding the salary cap. These next seven weeks figure to include the Pittsburgh Steelers making a few moves in order to get themselves ready for the start of the new league year. With so much misinformation already floating around on other sites concerning the Steelers’ current salary cap situation, I have once again started a new series last week to set the record straight on where the team is at and where they are likely to go financially throughout the offseason.
After already establishing a current snapshot of the Steelers salary cap situation for 2023 last week as Part 1 of this series, I will now move forward and look at legitimate and realistic options the team should have this offseason when it comes to creating salary cap space, should they deem such avenues necessary.
CONTRACT TERMINATIONS – There’s a good chance that we could see a few contract terminations take place prior to the start of the new league year in March.
Steelers cornerback William Jackson III probably leads the offseason list of possible pre new year contract terminations as he is scheduled to earn a base salary in 2023 of $9.25 million. He also has other roster and workout bonuses included in 2023 that sends his cap charge up to $12,176,471. Cutting Jackson early in the offseason would result in a cap savings of $12,176,471 prior to Top 51 roster displacement.
The steelers will need to look long and hard at quarterback Mitch Trubisky in the coming weeks as well as he’s scheduled to earn a base salary of $8 million in 2023. He’s obviously now the backup to quarterback Kenny Pickett and $8 million might be considered to be too much to pay for such services. That’s $8 million in 2023 cap savings prior to top 51 roster displacement should the team cut or trade him this offseason. That $8 million becomes guaranteed should Trubisky be on the 53-man roster come Week 0f the 2023 regular season.
It’s also worth pointing out that cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon could also be a salary cap casualty this offseason as well and especially after missing most of the 2022 season due to a hamstring injury. The Steelers would gain $4 million in salary cap space prior to top 51 roster displacement by cutting Witherspoon.
While I see some people suggesting that the Steelers could cut inside linebacker Myles Jack prior to March 15, I will be surprised if that ultimately happens. That said, cutting or trading Jack would produce $8 million in salary cap savings prior to roster displacement taking place. Once again, while not unthinkable, I will be surprised if they go this route and especially early in the offseason. I think it is much more likely that you see Jackson, Trubisky and Witherspoon all jettisoned.
Should Jackson, Trubisky, and Witherspoon be the ones cut or traded prior to March 15, the combined savings would be $24,176,471 prior to roster displacement taking place. That’s a chunk of salary cap space to work with.
TRADITIONAL CONTRACT RESTRUCTURES – Will the Steelers need to restructure a few contracts this offseason to free up additional salary cap space for 2023? There’s a very good chance that they will at some point and even if it is much later in the summer. If they do, there are really only three players that are candidates for traditional contract restructures, meaning no additional void years being added. That short list of players includes outside linebacker T.J. Watt, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and wide receiver Diontae Johnson. However, I highly doubt they would touch Johnson’s deal unless it was an emergency situation
A full restructure on Watt would create $12,613,333 in 2023 salary cap space, which is quite a lot. A full restructure on Fitzpatrick would create $10.065 million in 2023 salary cap space. As for Johnson, there is $4.71 million in 2023 salary cap space to be created should they do a full restructure on his contract. Once again, however, I will be surprised if his contract is touched with Watt and Fitzpatrick being much more realistic. Neither Watt nor Fitzpatrick have March roster bonuses due to them so there’s no hurry to get restructures done with them in the coming weeks.
Fully restructuring the deals of both Watt and Fitzpatrick would produce a combined 2023 salary cap clearing of $22,678,333. Once again, that’s a chunk of salary cap space. Will both need fully restructuring? Hopefully not, but at least there are two avenues to go through. If at all possible, it would make sense to hold off until late in training camp to do any restructures.
Quick Math: There are really no hard and fast totals to look at here because of all the options the Steelers will have to create cap space this offseason. There is well over $45 million in realistic available salary cap space to be had should the Steelers choose to cut just three players and fully restructure two others. Will the Steelers utilize all available options listed in this post? Probably not. A few of these we will get our answers to before the middle of March, however. The biggest takeaway from this post in this series is that the Steelers will be able to create more than enough salary cap room to handle whatever they deem necessary throughout the offseason.