The Pittsburgh Steelers hope to get tremendous play out of Devin Bush this season, but here’s why they could be in a losing proposition with their young linebacker.
The Steelers clearly have high hopes for Devin Bush. After trading up from the 20th spot to the 10th overall pick in the NFL Draft, Pittsburgh showed why they believe that Bush can develop into one of the best linebackers in the NFL.
After a very promising rookie season that included 109 tackles, 9 tackles for a loss, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 4 fumble recoveries, and a defensive touchdown, according to Pro Football Reference, Bush suffered a setback in year two. The talented young linebacker played in just 5 games before he was lost for the season with an ACL tear.
In year three, Bush will have a chance to redeem his reputation as a former top-10 draft pick with a very good season. Unfortunately, the Steelers will soon enter another predicament. On July 21st, 49ers linebacker, Fred Warner, signed a lucrative new deal – a 5-year extension worth $95 million ($45 million guaranteed), per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. With an annually yearly value of $19 million, Warner’s contract resets the market for top off-the-ball linebackers.
Why Fred Warner’s deal is bad for the Steelers
The NFL is a business, and players are going to get every penny they are worth while they can. This is unfortunate for the Steelers who are hoping to get a few special years out of Devin Bush. In fact, this puts them into a bit of a losing proposition.
Though Bush clearly isn’t Fred Warner at this stage in his career, he has all the potential to break out and become one of the best linebackers in the league by the time he will need a rich, new contract. Sadly, the money is so steep for top off-the-ball linebackers that one must ask if they are even worth paying anymore.
Prior to recent deals of Warner, C.J. Mosley, and Bobby Wagner, no off-ball linebacker ever averaged more than $14.5 million in average yearly salary, according to Over the Cap. Now, with Darius Leonard and others soon to be in line, it’s only a matter of time before linebackers are topping $20 million per year.
While the salary cap will continue to climb post-pandemic, it’s extremely hard to justify forking up this type of money. Personally, I think that money would be much better spent throwing back into an elite edge rusher or offensive tackle. With the quick passing game in today’s NFL, I could make a strong case that linebackers are more or less like the running backs of the defense. They are easier to replace than they used to be, and teams can now deploy them based on the personnel the offense is running.
If you’re wondering whether or not Devin Bush could ever earn this type of coin, it’s important to consider that the infamous Drew Rosenhaus is his agent. It’s also worth noting that he will be just 25 years old after his rookie contract and fifth-year option.
The Steelers are going to have more money after the Ben Roethlisberger era, but T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick are going to rake in massive new deals. Assuming Bush progresses quickly, can they really afford to pay him this type of deal? As linebackers continue to break the bank, this could be a bad sign for Devin Bush’s future with the team.