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Steelers Analysis

What Can Steelers Do to Re-Work Donte Jackson’s Contract?



Pittsburgh Steelers CB Donte Jackson
Carolina Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson (26) enters the stadium before an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Oct. 01, 2023, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Rusty Jones)

The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently set to pay cornerback Donte Jackson $10.5 million in the 2024 season after acquiring him from the Carolina Panthers. 
That’s a big chunk of change for a player that is largely considered to be an average-at-best starting cornerback at 28 years old.

It also appears to be well above the market value for a player of his ilk. PFF grades aren’t a be-all, end-all, but they’re a decent proxy for player performance. Jackson was rated a 64.3 overall last season, the No. 63 cornerback in the NFL. He’s the 17th-highest-paid cornerback.

It’s been expected since the Steelers acquired Jackson that they would do something about his elevated salary cap hit, with Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writing that the team will “re-do” Jackson’s deal.

So what kind of magic can Omar Khan and Steelers cap guru Cole Marcoux work with Jackson’s deal?

Well, not very much. The method that teams traditionally use to restructure contracts, which involves turning salary into signing bonus and extending it over multiple years, won’t work with a player on the final year of his deal.

He’s three things the Steelers can:


This doesn’t usually go over very well with the player and his agent, but considering that Jackson was on the verge of being cut by the Panthers before the trade, perhaps he’ll be willing to facilitate some savings for the new team.
The Steelers got Allen Robinson II to do the same last year after they acquired him in a trade from the Los Angeles Rams. Jackson has a $4 million roster bonus due on Saturday that would be a prime target for the Steelers try to get rid of. Once they pay it, they’ll have a lot less leverage, because it would become dead salary cap hit if Jackson is released.


If the Steelers can extend Jackson’s contract, they would then be able to do what amounts to a traditional restructure, turning some of the bonuses and salary that are due in 2024 into a signing bonus that can be extended out over the course of the new deal.

If he signs a new, two-year deal, his 2024 salary cap hit could be reduced by nearly half, with Jackson not earning any less money this season.


The Steelers can also sign Jackson to a new contract that doesn’t include any extra seasons to the player, but adds them on paper for salary cap purposes. They used this method first in 2021, when they were in a big salary cap crunch thanks to the pandemic-related cap drop.

Adding void years to the contract could drastically reduce Jackson’s cap hit, by nearly 75%, if they added three void years to the deal. The contract would automatically void next spring, and Jackson would become a free agent. Then all the money the Steelers saved in 2024 would become a dead cap hit in 2025.