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What Would a Steelers-Kirk Cousins Contract Look Like?

The Pittsburgh Steelers won’t land Kirk Cousins, and the money is as big of a reason as to why as anything else.



Pittsburgh Steelers QB Kirk Cousins

The Pittsburgh Steelers do not look like they will make a quarterback splash. They seem committed to giving Kenny Pickett another shot, as head coach Mike Tomlin and president Art Rooney II have said in their post-season comments. And more than that, Rooney has shrugged off talks about making a huge splash for a trade, and that likely extends to free agency. The immediate plan? Rooney wants to see Mason Rudolph return, but they will have four quarterbacks heading into training camp.

“Number one, obviously, we like what we saw for Mason in the last few games of the year,” Rooney said to WPXI. “And so bringing Mason back would be great. And we’ve had some conversations and we’ll, we’ll see where that goes. But, you know, we’ll, we’ll have some more faces in that room and go to camp with four quarterbacks as we always do.”

Kirk Cousins was one of the other options that the Steelers could try to pursue to make a huge splash in free agency. But that does not seem all that likely, either. But even if they were interested, Cousins’ contract ask is apparently extravagant and expensive.

According to Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press, Cousins wants $90 million guaranteed in a two-year contract.

“Buzz now is that it will take $90 million guaranteed for two years, despite that he’s still not yet fully recovered from Achilles surgery in November, to sign [Cousins],” Walters wrote.

The Steelers start the offseason at approximately $15.2 million over the projected salary cap. The league has yet to officially set the cap ceiling, but it is expected to come in around $242.5 million. The current Steelers payroll includes the top 51 salaries (all that are counted in the offseason) that add up to $259.7 million.

While the Steelers would only need to clear a little over $15 million to get compliant in the offseason, they will need to clear over $34 million between now and the start of the 2024 season. That’s because things like their rookie draft pool, the end of the rule of 51, their practice squad, players that might be on the injured reserve list, and a buffer to make in-season moves aren’t counted in the offseason figure.

So, what would a Cousins contract look like? Something at a significant discount, and that is before mentioning the concerns of a 35-year-old quarterback coming off an Achilles tear. As good as he was, there are significant questions that the Steelers would have a hard time answering.

It seems likely that veterans Allen Robinson II ($11.9 million), Chuks Okorafor ($11.8 million), Patrick Peterson ($9.8 million) and Mitch Trubisky ($7.6 million) will either not return or will do so at reduced salary. The team can either extend or add void years to reduce the cap hit of defensive tackle Cam Heyward by almost $10 million (just don’t ask him to take a pay cut), and outside linebacker Alex Highsmith could save over $7 million with a traditional contract restructure. They could clear over $50 million and make it work, but there would be little left over to addressing anything else.