As talent grows, it becomes more expensive & the Steelers are likely to lose a rising player in a similar situation due to the lack of cap space.
It’s been known as the best way to fully conclude one’s evaluation of a player is to see who that player becomes in three years. Either falling into the large pool of players that have maximized their lifetimes in the NFL or remaining on track to however much the sport has left to offer, it’s a pendulum swinging that grabs its participants annually.
The concept of value plays a heavy role here, as well. Did the team select a player that underachieved, overachieved, or up to expectancy based off when they were drafted? The Steelers are in a similar boat with former 3rd round pick DT Javon Hargrave, whose performance has exceeded expectations, & will now be a coveted option in the midst of a talented free agent DT class.
Entering the 2020 offseason, Hargrave & his agent might be facing the biggest decisions of his career. Where does he want to play & how much is he willing to bet on himself?
According to spotrac.com, Hargrave is nearing the end to his rookie contract earning an average salary of $778,564, ranking this 84th amongst all DTs & 1,209 in the NFL.
Now possibly closing a 4-year trek with the Steelers, the 168 tackles, 22 TFL, 22 QB hits, 14.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, & 1 touchdown nose tackle is estimated to have a market value of $14.7 million per year. Absolute rejoicing for Hargrave himself & his family, this could mean the end to his relationship with Pittsburgh as he’s set to begin the prime of his career.
Currently, 30th in the NFL in effective cap space ($1,430,975), money will surely be moved, reconstructed, & accrued to increase this limit, but an expected long-term deal with OLB Bud Dupree still makes Hargrave an expense to it all. However, the projected market above for the versatile NT will surely provide a wealthier list of options.
Sadly, this is a soon-to-be bidding war with Pittsburgh on the outside-looking-in, as Hargrave was in on 63% of defensive snaps (career-high) for a defense that ranked 3rd in DVOA. A more than likely option that 2019 was the last year Hargrave wore the “Black & Gold,” much can be appreciated for his growth as a player and contributions to the team.
Where Does Pittsburgh Look To If Hargrave Leaves?
On the roster, it’s the return of DL Stephon Tuitt. Before a torn pectoral muscle abruptly ended his 2019 campaign, he was on pace for a career-high in sacks and his best year yet in the NFL. A significant loss at the time, a full recovery should have him ready by training camp & immediately fill the loss if Hargrave were to leave.
Also, the dream for a steal still exists as 2019 6th round pick DE Isaiah Buggs will have his chance after basically serving a rookie “redshirt.” Appearing in 9 games but averaging nearly eight snaps per exhibition, the former University of Alabama stud has great hand usage along with his size & power to make up for the lack of athletic prowess.
Without having to search too far, the free agency will also have some interesting names even after the likes of DL Chris Jones, Mike Daniels, & Jarran Reed find new homes or stay pat. Players such as Timmy Jernigan, Danny Shelton, & Sheldon Day are all 27 years or younger and shouldn’t break the bank much for any team.
And if the Steelers were to look into the draft to keep the cash cheap, prospects to look out for that could slip & fall due to a well-rounded class are Justin Madubuike, Benito Jones, & Rashard Lawrence.
Point being, while Hargrave did more on the field than what his totals displayed, the loss of him through free agency can be replaced even being in cap hell. What would be a tough departure for both parties, options are still in Pittsburgh & available around the league to fill the depth going into next year.