What options do Steelers have with Mike Hilton and Matt Feiler?

Matt Feiler Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Matt Feiler Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

The Steelers have dozens of big decisions to make this offseason. Here are their options to keep restricted free agents Mike Hilton and Matt Feiler around in 2020.

Like every other NFL team right now, the Steelers have their hands full this offseason. Coronavirus scares have halted travel for most organizations during the pre-draft process. Meanwhile, the deadline to designate the franchise tag has already been pushed back, but Pittsburgh is expected to tag edge defender Bud Dupree.

Javon Hargrave will be hitting the free-agent market this offseason, while other players like Anthony Chickillo, Mark Barron, and Vance McDonald have been talked about as possible cap casualties. Lost in the shuffle are restricted free agents, Mike Hilton and Matt Feiler.

Hilton has been the Steelers starter at nickel cornerback since joining the team in 2017. During his tenure in Pittsburgh, he has managed 186 tackles, 22 tackles for a loss, 18 quarterback hits, 6.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, and 4 interceptions. But despite his efforts, Hilton may not receive a second contract from the Steelers.

Feiler, meanwhile, has proven to be a solid addition to Pittsburgh’s starting offensive line. He rated out as the Steeler’s best offensive lineman in 2019 with a 75.2 overall grade, according to Pro Football Focus. But despite being the youngest starter on an aging offensive line, Feiler has not been offered a contract extension.

While both Hilton and Feiler have done enough in the NFL to warrant respectable extensions on their next contracts, it may not be in the cards for Pittsburgh. The Steelers are 30th in the NFL in cap space, and an extension for Hilton or Feiler this year may be out of the question.

Because of this, the restricted free agent tender seems like the right option. But which tender should they use on each player?

There are three different RFA tenders NFL teams can designate: first round, second round, and an original round tender. The original round tender would cost the team $2.144 million against the cap in 2020, according to Over the Cap. While this number seems very manageable, opposing teams would have the opportunity to poach these players without giving the Steelers a pick in return.

The first-round tender would cost the Steelers $4.667 million for each player with this designation. While they would receive a first-round pick if one of their players under this tender was poached (not going to happen), it’s too lofty of a price tag for Pittsburgh to pay this year.

The second-round tender may be the safest option for the Steelers in 2020 – assuming they can find the money for it. Pittsburgh would be to pay $3.278 million for each player – a number that is still smaller than what either Hilton or Feiler would earn in yearly value on a new contract.

The second-round tender, however, would give Pittsburgh the security to know that neither Hilton or Feiler would be poached from their squad this season.

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Though this still doesn’t solve the issue long-term, it keeps two solid contributors around for at least another season. If the Steelers can find space for the second-round tender, they should use it on these two players.