When the Pittsburgh Steelers signed Minkah Fitzpatrick to a four-year contract extension last week, the club went out of its way to convert some of Fitzpatrick’s guaranteed salary for 2022 and turn it into a signing bonus, to spread that money out throughout the life of his contract and save $2.5 million against the 2022 salary cap.
That’s something the Steelers have done a lot over the years, but usually, it’s because of a salary cap crunch that keeps them from being able to operate as they’d like to. The Steelers don’t have that crunch this year. After the retirement of Stephon Tuitt, they had nearly $10 million in usable salary cap space. By making more room with the retirement of Fitzpatrick, they can now spent at lest $11.25 million over the rest of the offseason, and the club can make even more room if it wants to by restructuring the contracts of T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward.
Those moves to push money into the future have a cost in the future, as the team is effectively reducing its future cap space in order to maximize present cap space. They wouldn’t have done that with Fitzpatrick’s deal unless they had a plan to spend that money this offseason.
So what will the Steelers do with that money? They could sign a defensive lineman to replace Tuitt, as there are several on the market. Larry Ogunjobi, Star Lotulelei and Ndamukong Suh are among the big names still available at that position.
The Steelers also didn’t do much to upgrade the offensive tackle position this offseason, sticking with the same top three as a year ago in Dan Moore Jr., Chukwuma Okorafor and Joe Haeg. The tackle market is thinner, with Eric Fisher the lone former starter under the age of 32 that is available.
The team is also short on experienced outside wide receiver depth and don’t have an obvious choice to the be backup to Najee Harris, but those positions shouldn’t take $10 million to fill.
Look for Omar Khan to look to the trenches to spend the money they’ve created.
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