3 Steelers candidates to be cut after June 1

Omar Khan is putting the finishing touches on his summer roster, but these three players should not be safe after June 1.
Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts
Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

The NFL has offered a way out of bad contracts that provides a bit of financial relief. After June 1, any player who is released will have future prorations of their contract land in the following year. For players with multiple years remaining on their contracts, this decreased the amount of dead money that will count against the team's salary cap space.

Every year, there are teams that take advantage of post-June 1 cuts in order to gain a bit of cap relief. This year, the Pittsburgh Steelers could take advantage of this designation.

The biggest problem with waiting this long to free up cap space is that the free agent market is mostly dried up. However, advantages remain -- especially for teams looking to get out of bad deals. Here are three Steelers who could be released after June 1.

Larry Ogunjobi, DT

One of the most questionable decisions Omar Khan made early in his tenure as Steelers general manager was to extend the contract of Larry Ogunjobi. Following the 2022 season -- his first in Pittsburgh -- Khan handed the veteran defensive tackle a three-year, $28.75 million contract after an unspectacular season.

In 2023, Ogunjobi's performance dipped even further. Despite earning 3.0 sacks in 17 games, Ogunjobi saw his tackles for losses cut in half and he wasn't as efficient on a per-snap basis. The veteran also struggled to anchor in run defense.

Ogunjobi turns 30 years old just after the June 1 deadline, but he has the fourth-highest cap number on the team in 2024 ($13.28 million). If the Steelers were to cut him now, they would be forced to eat over $11.8 million in dead cap, with just a $1.46 million savings.

However, if Ogunjobi were to be a post-June 1 release, the Steelers would save $5 million in cap space. This doesn't make up for the bad decision to ink him to a three-year deal last offseason, but they could throw this savings back into another interior defender who fits what they are looking for.

Damontae Kazee, S

Because Damontae Kazee only has one year remaining on his contract, it makes no difference whether or not the Steelers cut him before or after June 1. But if Omar Khan is looking to make a few final adjustments to his 90-man summer roster, this could be one of them.

The Steelers would save $3 million by cutting Kazee -- who is coming off a down season in Pittsburgh. The veteran safety surrendered a passing rating of 114.1 when targeted, according to advanced stats from Pro Football Reference.

There are a number of quality free-agent safeties still available if the Steelers want to use these cap savings to invest back into the position. If they like what they have at the safety position heading into the summer, they could use the roster spot elsewhere.

DeMarvin Leal, DL

Cutting DeMarvin Leal after June 1 would save the Steelers a bit more money, but the difference in $938k to $1.17 million is small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. This decision could be made for reasons other than cap space.

Leal, a former third-round pick, still has two years remaining on his rookie contract, but he was demoted late in the 2023 season and was ultimately a healthy scratch for Pittsburgh. It's clear that the Steelers have been unable to find a role for him, and if they can't find a trade partner, they may elect to just cut their losses with one of Kevin Colbert's final draft picks.

With Dean Lowry and Logan Lee added to the team this offseason, Leal is going to have a hard enough time earning a roster spot in 2024. He's likely to stick around throughout the summer because of his cheap rookie contract, but don't be surprised if he gets cut after June 1.

All contract and salary cap figures courtesy of Over the Cap.