Predicting Cameron Heyward’s next contract numbers after Chris Jones deal

Cameron Heyward #97 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Cameron Heyward #97 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers may not be able to re-sign Cameron Heyward. Here’s what the star defensive lineman could earn on his next deal.

Chiefs defensive lineman, Chris Jones, was the talk on social media on Tuesday after signing a lucrative new extension with Kansas City. His 4-year contract worth up to $85 million could make him the second-highest-paid interior defender in the league if he reaches his incentives. But this news isn’t good for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Cameron Heyward is entering a contract year with the team the drafted him back in 2011, but hopes are beginning to fade that Pittsburgh will be able to get a long-term deal done with one of their best players. After Chris Jones’ massive extension, let’s take a look at what Heyward’s future contract numbers might look like:

Chris Jones and DeForest Bucker reset the DL market

Rams defensive lineman, Aaron Donald is in a class of his own, so obviously Heyward won’t be receiving that type of money. However, he could be in line to make just under what Chris Jones and new Colts addition, DeForest Buckner, recently made.

According to Over the Cap, Jones and Buckner now each have contract numbers that average at $20.5 million per season and average 4.5 years in length. Being in perhaps the final stretch of his NFL career, Heyward isn’t going to want to sign a deal that is under 3 years and is likely looking for something in the 4-5 year range.

While Heyward’s resume is more impressive than either Jones’ or Buckner’s, he may come at a slightly cheaper price due to his age. Jones and Buckner will both be 26 years old for the 2020 season while Heyward turned 31 this offseason. While the two young defensive linemen have combined for just two Pro Bowls and zero first-team All-Pros thus far through their NFL careers, the arrow is pointing up for both players.

Meanwhile, Heyward may have already played his best seasons in the NFL. Factoring his age, his recent production, and his All-Pro statuses over the past three seasons, Heyward could be looking for a deal that pays him close to $20 million per season. I’m predicting a 4-year, $77 million deal with $38 million guaranteed.

This would put Heyward’s guaranteed money right in between Buckner’s and Jones’, while his base salary would be slightly less ($19.25 per season). If the Pittsburgh Steelers are the team to get this deal done, this contract likely gets backloaded in a way that will free up immediate cap space over the next two seasons, but still be able to cut him in the fourth year if they need to.

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At this point, it’s hard for me to picture the Pittsburgh Steelers paying the 31-year-old defensive lineman as much as some teams will be able to afford to. Obviously, I hope an extension gets done, but after the recent Chris Jones and DeForest Buckner contracts, I’ve been a little pessimistic about Heyward’s long-term future in Pittsburgh.