The Steelers have some looming decisions to make this offseason. Here are there options when it comes to restricted free agent cornerback, Mike Hilton.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have several difficult decisions to make over the next few weeks. In order to retain pass rusher, Bud Dupree, Kevin Colbert, and his staff will be forced to cut players to create enough cap space to take on the franchise tag.
But while Dupree is soaking up all of the attention of fans and Pittsburgh media this offseason, another respectable free agent has been slipping through the cracks.
Mike Hilton is a quality football player who signed with the Steelers back in 2017. The former undrafted free agent quickly exceeded expectations. Not only did he stick around in Pittsburgh, but he became their primary nickel cornerback.
During his three-year stint with the Steelers, Hilton proved to be a capable cover man, a solid tackler and a terrific blitzer. He has accumulated 4 interceptions and 6.5 sacks in 47 games with Pittsburgh.
Hilton is a restricted free agent this year, so maintaining his services seems like it should be a piece of cake. However, with the financial peril the Steelers are in, it has been rumored that he may not be tendered. Here’s what Bob Labriola had to say in an article about Pittsburgh’s cornerbacks:
“Offering Hilton one of the higher tenders would eliminate interest from other teams, but the Steelers might not have the room under the salary cap for that.”
Hilton has posted overall season grades of 83.1, 69.9, and 68.0, according to Pro Football Focus, and he has proved his worth as a quality slot cornerback in the league. In 2019, he graded out as the 42nd best cornerback in the league.
While setting aside a few million dollars for a player who is essentially a starter (62 percent of defensive snaps last year) seems like no big deal, Pittsburgh already has decisions to make with several key veterans just to get enough money to retain Dupree.
Vance McDonald, Ramon Foster, Anthony Chickillo, and Mark Barron are all players in jeopardy of losing their jobs in 2020 due to their cap hits and the amount of money Pittsburgh could save with their departure from the team.
Though it was expected early on that the Steelers could place a second-round tender on Mike Hilton, his future in Pittsburgh is all of a sudden looking questionable.
If it were up to me, I would love to find a way for Hilton to stick around for at least one more season. However, the Steelers are 30th in the NFL in cap space with just over $1.5 million to spare, according to Over the Cap, and a franchise tag for Dupree is estimated to be in the ballpark of $16 million. It’s going to take cutting players to keep him around. Will Hilton be a cap casualty as well?