Perhaps the least exhibiting tidbits of in the months following the NFL Draft is the announcements that rookie picks have officially been signed. We know that signing these selections is inevitable, and it's only a matter of time. However, fans are given a sense of comfort when the pen is put to paper and they ink their deals. On Friday, the Pittsburgh Steelers made history with Keeanu Benton's rookie contract.
On June 23rd, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that Pittsburgh had officially signed Benton to his four-year rookie deal. However, for the first time in NFL history, the 49th overall selection has guaranteed money into his third contract year.
The Steelers are a team that doesn't like to hand out guarantees to unproven players often, so this is a first. In addition to having his first two years fully guaranteed, Benton will receive guaranteed money into his third year as well.
While we don't have the official numbers at this point in time, Benton's contract will total around $7.3 million over four years, with roughly a $2.3 million signing bonus. His base salary for 2023 will be in the ballpark of $1.3 million.
Benton was considered one of the better interior defender prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft, just after players like Pittsburgh's Calijah Kancey and Michigan's Mazi Smith -- both of whom were selected inside the first 26 picks. Though the Benton selection wasn't deemed a steal on the consensus board, he was considered the best of the rest when it came to the interior defensive line class.
Benton impressed at the Senior Bowl and measured in at the NFL Combine at 6'3 5/8'' and 309 pounds with 33 7/8'' arms, via Mockdraftable. During his college career at Wisconsin, Benton didn't see any sort of quality production until his senior season when he recorded 36 tackles, 10.0 tackles for a loss, and 4.5 sacks in 12 games.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have made it clear that Benton will look to begin his career as a nose tackle, but he will have a chance to play up and down the defensive line eventually, if he proves himself. Players were impressed by Benton at OTAs and minicamp, and we all hope the guaranteed money in his rookie contract looks like chump change a few years down the line.