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Courtland Sutton Rumors Heat up with Steelers Cap Moves

The Pittsburgh Steelers could look to land Courtland Sutton after they cleared more cap space to land him under the cap if acquired.

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Pittsburgh Steelers Courtland Sutton

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Courtland Sutton have been connected in some trade rumors for the last two weeks, but on Wednesday, just before the NFL Draft, those have heated up even more. It started off this morning with a report from Jeremy Fowler stating Pittsburgh was a team to watch for Sutton.

“Denver has received several trade calls on him but haven’t planned to trade him. Pittsburgh could be a team to watch here,” he wrote.

Fowler notes that only $2 million of Sutton’s contract is guaranteed for the season and that he would like an adjustment on the current year of his deal to give him more stability. It is the second straight year that teams have called about Sutton. But general manager George Paton noted that it seems like Sutton is in a good place.

“Sean’s talked to Courtland. I’ve talked to Courtland. He’s in a good place,” Paton said.

As Fowler noted, this is the second offseason in a row that Sutton had garnered interest. According to Benjamin Allbright, a Broncos insider, the Broncos have already tried to move Sutton before; last year, before the season, they were reportedly not high on Sutton and nearly traded him to the Ravens. That means a clear opening for a team to fill and try to acquire Sutton’s services.

The club’s second-round pick out of SMU in the 2018 NFL Draft, Sutton has spent all six of his NFL seasons in Denver. Nearing the end of his rookie contract, Sutton signed a new four-year, $60.8 million contract with the Broncos in 2021.

Sutton has two years remaining on that deal. He is set to make $13.6 million this season and $14 million next season before becoming a free agent in 2026. Only $2 million of that salary this season is guaranteed, and none in 2025.

He would have come with a pricey cap hit, expensive enough that the Steelers would have needed to move around some chairs on the cap hit board. On Wednesday, they did just that by restructuring Alex Highsmith, giving Pittsburgh more than $19 million in cap space. Now, they can comfortably trade for Sutton if they wish.

Before the start of the 2024 regular season, they will need to pay workout bonuses, sign their rookie class, account for the 52nd and 53rd players on the roster, sign a practice squad, account for players on the injured reserve, and leave space for in-season acquisitions. They may also need to make room for a contract extension for tight end Pat Freiermuth.

But there’s enough room to work around now, too. Sutton would be extended since he wants a new contract and he could help alleviate some cap space pressure.

Sutton has been consistently productive over the course of his career, despite near-constant changeover at the quarterback position. Outside of his 2020 season, in which he played only one game before suffering a season-ending ACL injury, Sutton has caught at least 40 passes for at least 700 yards every other year. 

He best season came in 2019, when he earned a Pro Bowl nod after catching 72 of 124 targets for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns with the combination of Joe Flacco, Drew Lock and Brandon Allen as his starting quarterbacks.

The revolving door at quarterback continued with Teddy Bridgewater, Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien, Jarrett Stidham and Russell Wilson and even wide receiver Kendall Hinton starting games at quarterback for Denver over the last four seasons.

The Steelers have been in the market for a wide receiver since trading Diontae Johnson to the Carolina Panthers in March. They’ve struck out on free agents Mike Williams and Tyler Boyd, missing on Williams, who signed with the Jets, and reaching a negotiating impasse with Boyd. The Steelers have also kicked the tires on San Francisco star Brandon Aiyuk, who the 49ers insist they are not trading.

Sutton would make sense thanks to his consistent production and built-in connection with Wilson, who figures to start for the Steelers, at least to start the 2024 season. 

RELATED: Broncos WR Courtland Sutton Could Make Sense for Steelers

If there is one that could be a bigger splash but feels more likely, this one does. The Broncos are not in this thing to win it this year; in fact, they might be looking to try to bounce to the top of the draft board for the 2025 season. But Courtland Sutton has the Russell Wilson connection and profiles as the contested catch, big-bodied guy that the team was looking to add when Mike Williams was targeted.

Take it from the long view; Sutton’s cap savings after June 1 would rack up to over $10 million. Even before then, the Broncos can stomach a trade, and Sutton has been rumored to be on the trade block for nearly a year. It’s obviously not the same level of splash as Aiyuk or some other massive names thrown around, but Sutton has the connections and probably would not cost a ton to land in a trade, either. So, this makes sense on multiple levels for the Steelers.

Is it a perfect move? No. There are concerns with Sutton, but he will not cost a premium draft pick and would provide a solid running mate with Pickens. And more likely than not, the team would end up drafting another wide receiver, too. So, there would be some more depth to come besides just Sutton. It makes sense all around.