3 not-so-great alternatives to Steelers paying Alex Highsmith

  • What would the Steelers have received in a Highsmith trade?
  • Was a franchise tag in 2024 a viable option?

Steelers, Alex Highsmith
Steelers, Alex Highsmith / Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports
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2. Steelers slap the franchise tag on Highsmith in 2024

Another option the Pittsburgh Steelers could have had with Alex Highsmith would have been the franchise tag. This would lock him up with the team for at least the next two seasons (2023 on his rookie deal and 2024 on the tag). While tagged, Khan would also have the opportunity to try to work out a contract extension before the deadline next summer.

Historically, however, using the franchise tag can be hard on player-team relationships. If Highsmith has a monster season in 2023, he would want the assurance of long-term security with lots of guaranteed money into the future. Slapping the tag on him could hurt any chance of signing him to a long-term deal.

The other problem with the tag is that it's very expensive. While it would be great to have Highsmith on a cheap cap number for 2023, the franchise tag in 2024 would be the average of the top salaries at the position. That means he would be significantly more than the yearly value that he signed for. It's also worth noting that franchise tag money cannot be moved around and it is fully guaranteed.

Of course, there's always the risk Highsmith takes a step back. At which point, using a franchise tag to retain him would be a bad move considering how much it costs. If they decided not to, Pittsburgh could lose him in free agency anyway to a team with significantly more cap space to blow.