With the passing of the new CBA, Steelers fans should be excited about how the team and the league will be structured for the next ten years.
A new collective bargaining agreement (or CBA) was passed this week for the NFL, and as Steelers fans, there should be much rejoicing. For starters, with the deal passed, the team can begin to formulate and finalize their offseason plans (as evident by the myriad of moves they made after the deal passed). The vote to pass wasn’t overwhelming by any means, as the collective players who voted to pass the new CBA only totaled 60 more than the players who voted against it.
What’s done is done though, and the NFL can move forward for the next ten years under the new terms. ESPN’s Dan Graziano does an excellent job breaking down the general details the new CBA includes. Most notably, the players see an increase in revenue from 47 percent to 48 percent as well as an increase in minimum salaries and pensions. The NFL gets set for a 17-game schedule and an expanded playoff bracket.
For the Steelers though, the new CBA is vital to the success of this team. Because of this new deal getting passed, the dreaded 30 percent rule is now null and void. What this means is that the Steelers can sign players and keep their cap hit as low as possible.
Take a potential Bud Dupree extension as outlined in this earlier piece. If he signed an 18.5 million average annual value contract, his cap hit each year would have to be within 30 percent of what it was previously (meaning you couldn’t backload his contract). His first-year cap it in that scenario was 11 million dollars.
With the new CBA passed and elimination of the 30 percent rule, the Steelers can give Dupree the same 18.5 AAV deal but significantly reduce his first-year cap hit since they can pay him his veteran minimum salary (estimated in the range of 1 million with the new CBA) along with his signing bonus (25 million dollars in said example), meaning Dupree’s first-year cap hit would be 6 million as opposed to 11 million.
This goes beyond in-house signings as well, since any free agent the Steelers sign this year can have as small of a first-year cap hit as possible. On top of this, restructures can now be done for the maximum amount, since the player can convert almost all of their base salary for the year into a signing bonus, which allows for that money to be spread evenly over the remaining years on their deal. The team has already done such a restructure with Vance McDonald.
While the cap benefits of this new deal are immense, there are some intriguing regular season additions as well. For starters, the practice squads have been increased from 10 players to 12 and will go up to 14 in 2022. The team can also elevate two practice squad players per week to their active roster, giving them 55 total players on the roster. As well, those players can be moved back to the practice squad twice without being exposed to waivers.
That means that last year a player like Patrick Morris could have been called up from the practice squad to replace Maurkice Pouncey when he was needed and sent directly back to it once Pouncey returned instead of being claimed off waivers like he was by Denver. Important to note that this has no bearing on players like Tuzar Skipper and Fred Johnson since both started the year on the active roster before being claimed off waivers.
The passing of the new CBA will be pivotal to the Steeler’s success this offseason. More money will be opened up meaning more holes can be filled before they enter the draft. As well, the team will be able to retain more talent on the practice squad and have less of a chance to see those developmental guys get stolen off waivers. All in all, the passing of the CBA might be one of the best things that happen for the Steelers offseason.