Updating the Steelers’ salary cap following Diontae Johnson’s contract

Updating the Steelers’ salary cap following Diontae Johnson’s contract

The Pittsburgh Steelers are chugging through 2022 training camp and are about a week away from their first preseason game. While there cold continue to be some swapping of players throughout training camp, there is always the chance something else changes things whether large or small. As reports come in of these deals well before they are official, even after pen is put to paper it can sometimes take some time to know the exact financials within the contract. Relying heavily on reliable salary cap websites such as overthecap.com or spotrac.com, when they are able to report a player’s contract numbers over the specific years I then update the salary cap situation with a more precise number.

Before getting into Diontae Johnson, there are a couple other items which need to be taken care of. During the last salary cap update, there was a report of Jeremy McNichols contract from Spotrac. After that report, a conflicting report from Over The Cap (OTC) had McNichols being in his fourth NFL season, not third, and therefore qualified for a veteran salary benefit. When the contract went on the total for the NFLPA site, it did not change the Steelers amount, which would agree with the OTC report. So the discrepancy of $70k is still out there, but it’s not nearly as important now that McNichols is on the Reserve/Injured List. What ultimately will happen now is whether or not McNichols has an injury settlement or how things play out with him going on IR, so his salary has now been taken off of my list below for the time being. If there is an injury settlement, that amount could be thought of by fitting in the category of “in-season expenses.” As for the addition of Master Teague, he did not land in the top 51 of salaries.

The other person to discuss is the contract of Chris Boswell, but his numbers have not been reported by a credible source in order to get a full breakdown. It has been reported that Boswell has an $8 million signing bonus, so based on his $1.6 million prorated bonus from his new extension, plus $1,683,334 in dead money from the previous contract, we know that Chris Boswell will count $3.283,334 plus his base salary for the 2022 salary cap. In the past, it would be assumed that Boswell‘s base salary was the minimum as this was how the Steelers have structured things. But after seeing the structure of Minkah Fitzpatrick’s deal, plus what you will soon see with Diontae Johnson, the Steelers aren’t necessarily dropping to the league minimum as a base salary for the first year. If they do give Boswell the league minimum for a player with his years of service, which is $1.12 million, the Steelers would save $545k on the salary cap. If the Steelers gave Boswell a bigger base salary, something such as $2 million, he would count $335k against the salary cap as he would then have a bigger hit that he would have been scheduled before his extension. So while we don’t know the exact number, this is a pretty safe range when it comes to Boswell and that he will fall in there somewhere which doesn’t affect the salary cap in a huge way whether it’s going to be a gain or a loss. In fact, the Steelers may have purposefully structured the deal to keep him right around the same cap hit for 2022.

Finally getting on to Dionne Johnson, his contract comes with a $17.5 million signing bonus. Dividing that up over the three remaining years of his contract, it carries a prorated bonus of $5,833,333 per season. Adding on the $283,357 in dead money from his signing bonus with his rookie deal, the only remaining factor was Johnson‘s base salary. According to OTC, Johnson has a base salary of $1.5 million for 2022, giving him a cap number of $7,616,690 for 2022. With his previous amount being 3,073,357 before his new deal, Diontae Johnson is costing just over an additional $4.5 million against the 2022 salary cap.

Although it doesn’t apply when it comes to a contract extension because players were already on the roster, I’ll still leave the reminder of roster displacement in case anyone is looking over some of the older signings. To determine how much a newly signed player changes the Steelers’ salary cap space, their cap number must be adjusted due to roster displacement. As a reminder, roster displacement is taking into account only the top 51 contracts for a team count towards the salary cap during the offseason. As a larger contract comes on the books, it bumps a smaller contract out of the top 51. Therefore, it’s only the difference in those contracts that increases the salary cap number.

Here is the approximate breakdown of the Steelers salary cap space based on their recent moves by my own calculations. The numbers are strictly the salary cap hit for each player in 2022. Players who were released, were given a tender, or had their exact salary reported are indicated below and the precise numbers are known.

(NOTE: Unless indicated, reported salaries displaced a $825k salary.)


Steelers salary cap space heading into free agency: Approximately $28.8 million

Dwayne Haskins: Tendered $2.54 million salary; After displacement++: -$1.715 million
Miles Killebrew: Reported $1.5175 million; After displacement: -$0.6925 million
Arthur Maulet: Reported $1.535 million; After displacement: -$0.71 million
Mitch Trubisky: Reported $3.66 million; After displacement+: -$2.765 million
Mason Cole: Reported $2.556666 million; After displacement+: -$1.661666 million
Chuks Okorafor: Reported $4.333333 million; After displacement: -$3.508333 million
Robert Spillane: Tendered $2.433 million salary; After displacement: -$1.608 million
Marcus Allen: Tendered $2.54 million salary; After displacement: -$1.715 million
James Daniels: Reported $4.166666 million; After displacement: -$3.341666 million
Levi Wallace: Reported $2.5175 million; After displacement*: -$1.672317 million
Montravius Adams: Reported $1.7675 million; After displacement+: -$0.8725 million
Zach Banner: Saved $5 million salary; After displacement: +$4.175 million
Myles Jack: Reported $4.75 million; After displacement*: -$3.90139 million
Joe Schobert: Saved $7.834 million salary; After displacement+: +$6.939 million
Ahkello Witherspoon: Reported $2.5175 million; After displacement+: -$1.6225 million
Gunner Olszewski: Reported $1.5825 million; After displacement+: -$0.6875 million
Genard Avery: Reported $1.0475 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525 million
Karl Joseph: Reported $895k; not in the top 51: -$0
Miles Boykin: Reported $2.54 million; After displacement++: -$0
Terrell Edmunds: Reported $1.1875 million; After displacement+: -$0.2925 million
Damontae Kazee: Reported $1.0475 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525 million
George Pickens: Reported $1.22767 million; After displacement+: -$0.33267 million
Trenton Scott: Reported $895k; not in the top 51: -$0
DeMarvin Leal: Reported $0.943072 million; After displacement+: -$0.048072 million
Bryce Watts: Released with $10k in dead money: -$0.01
Tuzar Skipper: Reported $895k; not in the top 51: -$0
Stephon Tuitt: Saved $9.05 million salary; After displacement+: +$8.155 million
Minkah Fitzpatrick: Reported $8.124235 million; Replaced $10.612 million: +$2.487765 million
Kenny Pickett: Reported $2.557801 million; After displacement+: -$1.662801 million
Larry Ogunjobi: Reported $8 million; After displacement+: -$7.105 million
Doug Costin: Reported $825k; not in the top 51: -$0
Jeremy McNichols: Reported $965k; After displacement+: -$0.07 million
Master Teague: Reported $705k; not in the top 51: -$0
Chris Boswell: No report yet
Diontae Johnson: Reported $7.616690 million; Replaced $3.073357 million: –$4.543333 million

Estimated salary cap space: Approximately $9.8 million

*The salaries displaced by these two contracts were $845,183 (Tre Norwood) and $848,610 (Pressley Harvin)

+A $895k contract was displaced

++Displaced by each other, giving no change to the cap


So where does this number compare to those reported by the major salary cap websites (at the original time of publishing, before any potential updates)?

According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $9,795,599 under the salary cap. OTC has everything on their books at this time, except the Boswell contract and any change with McNichols. With all things reported, we have the exact same dollar amount.

Another credible salary cap website is spotrac.com, which has the Steelers at $12,881,076 under the cap. Spotrac has the above contracts, except for Chris Boswell and Diontae Johnson, and has McNichols on the IR. Spotrac also has Miles Boykin’s prorated bonus incorrectly counting for the Steelers instead of it sticking with the Ravens. Spotrac does not have the offseason workouts counting against the salary cap at this time either. Additionally, Spotrac counts the potential dead money hits of players outside the top 51 salaries in their totals.

I updated how much I believe the Steelers will need to still have when the regular season rolls around, which is much as an additional $13 million. Come September, the Steelers need to account for all 53 players on the roster, sign their practice squad, and have some carryover in order to do business throughout the year. But there is one more expense that will likely add to the $5 million the Steelers hoped to take into the season (in years past). If the Steelers elevate players from the practice squad, they must receive a full game check. Taking this into account, along with significant increases in league-minimum salaries of players who could be added to the roster if another player is injured, the Steelers will likely want to carry an additional $2 million to $3 million, increasing what I had estimated before to be about $10.8 million up to approximately $13 million. Also remember, this needed amount could go down depending on the salaries of the players who do not make the roster, assuming there is not too much dead money.

Based on this number, the Steelers are about $3.2 million shy of what they will likely need for the 2022. If the Steelers feel they need more money against the 2022 salary cap, a restructure of T.J. Watt’s contract could give more than $17 million if the Steelers chose to do so. Also, the Steelers could do a restructure for a lower amount once they have an idea of what they could need, and that restructure could wait until after they cut down to 53 players.

Does something not make sense? Curious about any of the specifics? Leave your questions in the comments below and I will check in and do my best to answer them.

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