Potential contract restructures for 6 Pittsburgh Steelers players in 2023

The Pittsburgh Steelers are facing a tight salary cap situation in 2023, and they may need to restructure some of their players’ contracts to create more space.

Restructuring a contract means converting some of the player’s base salary or roster bonus into a signing bonus, which can be prorated over the remaining years of the deal.

This lowers the player’s cap hit for the current year, but increases it for the future years. Here are six players the Steelers could restructure their contract, and one they shouldn’t.

T.J. Watt

The star edge rusher signed a massive four-year, $112 million extension in 2021, making him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history. He is set to count $28.3 million against the cap in 2023, which is a huge number for any player.

The Steelers could restructure his contract and save up to $14.15 million in cap space this year, but they would also add $4.725 million to his cap hit in each of the next three years. This may be worth it for a player of Watt’s caliber, who is still in his prime and has been dominant for the Steelers.

Diontae Johnson

The young wide receiver is entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2023, and he is due to make $2.4 million in base salary and roster bonus.

The Steelers could restructure his contract and convert most of that money into a signing bonus, which would lower his cap hit to $1.2 million this year and add $1.2 million to his cap hit in 2024.

This would be a smart move for the Steelers, who would create some cap space this year and also secure Johnson’s services for another year. Johnson has been a reliable target for Ben Roethlisberger and has shown flashes of brilliance as a route runner and playmaker.

Chuks Okorafor

The offensive tackle is also entering the final year of his rookie deal in 2023, and he is slated to make $2.3 million in base salary and roster bonus. The Steelers could restructure his contract and convert most of that money into a signing bonus, which would lower his cap hit to $1.15 million this year and add $1.15 million to his cap hit in 2024.

This would be a risky move for the Steelers, who may not want to commit to Okorafor for another year. Okorafor has been inconsistent as a starter and has struggled with pass protection and penalties. He may not be part of the Steelers’ long-term plans at tackle.

James Daniels

The guard was signed by the Steelers as a free agent in 2022, after spending four years with the Chicago Bears. He signed a three-year, $18 million deal with the Steelers, with $9 million guaranteed. He is set to count $6 million against the cap in 2023, which is a reasonable amount for a quality guard.

The Steelers could restructure his contract and save up to $3 million in cap space this year, but they would also add $1 million to his cap hit in each of the next two years. This would be a worthwhile move for the Steelers, who would benefit from having Daniels anchor their interior line for another two years.

Mason Cole

The center was acquired by the Steelers via trade from the Arizona Cardinals in 2022, in exchange for a sixth-round pick. He signed a two-year, $10 million extension with the Steelers, with $5 million guaranteed. He is set to count $5 million against the cap in 2023, which is a bit high for a center who has been average at best.

The Steelers could restructure his contract and save up to $2.5 million in cap space this year, but they would also add $2.5 million to his cap hit in 2024. This would be a questionable move for the Steelers, who may want to look for an upgrade at center next year.

Chris Boswell

The kicker signed a four-year, $16.8 million extension with the Steelers in 2018, making him one of the highest-paid kickers in the league. He is set to count $4.8 million against the cap in 2023, which is a lot for a kicker who has been inconsistent lately.

The Steelers could restructure his contract and save up to $2.4 million in cap space this year, but they would also add $800,000 to his cap hit in each of the next two years. This would be a bad move for the Steelers, who should not invest more money into Boswell’s future performance.

Final Thoughts: Restructuring the Contracts of Pittsburgh Steelers’ Players in 2023

The Pittsburgh Steelers are facing a challenging salary cap situation in 2023, which may require them to restructure some of their players’ contracts. While this strategy can provide immediate relief to the team’s cap space, it also means a higher cap hit for future years.

The decision to restructure a contract should, therefore, depend on the player’s value to the team, their age, and their long-term potential.

Among the players mentioned, it makes sense for the Steelers to restructure the contracts of T.J. Watt and Diontae Johnson. Watt is the team’s star edge rusher, and his contribution to the team’s defense cannot be overstated.

The savings from his restructured contract can provide much-needed flexibility in the current year, and his age and talent make him a valuable player for the team’s future.

Johnson is a young receiver who has shown promise and has become an important target for the Steelers’ quarterback. Restructuring his contract secures his services for another year and provides cap relief in the present year.

The decision to restructure Chuks Okorafor’s contract is more complicated. While his salary is relatively low, his inconsistency as a starter and his uncertain future with the team make it a risky move to commit to another year.

The same goes for Chris Boswell, the kicker, whose recent inconsistency may not warrant an investment in his future performance.

On the other hand, James Daniels and Mason Cole are quality players whose contracts can be restructured for cap savings without significant risk. Daniels, in particular, is a valuable guard whose contribution to the Steelers’ interior line is essential for the team’s success.