Free agency is on the horizon and it's inevitable that the Steelers will be making moves. As extensions are signed and free agents are brought in, the team will likely be examining the roster to see who could be trimmed to make more cap room.
Here are five players that could be cap casualties...
Jon Bostic ($1.8 million saved in 2019)
Some casualties are sure to be a decision made after the 2019 NFL Draft – this will likely be the case for linebacker Jon Bostic. He hasn't been "BAD" by any means, but his ceiling is as an okay starter; the fact that he was benched for L.J. Fort shows what the team may think of him.
Whether or not the Steelers land a linebacker in the Draft will likely determine his fate. Sometimes the board just falls in a way where the Steelers can’t get their guys. If this happens, it would be smart to retain Bostic. He’s a solid depth player that doesn’t cost too much to keep around.
However, if the Steelers manage to land a linebacker within the first three rounds or so - a player that they anticipate can play a significant role on defense in the 2019 season - then it’s likely that Bostic gets the axe.
Morgan Burnett ($3.6 million saved in 2019)
It’s been a very weird offseason for safety Morgan Burnett. Early on, a report was released claiming he wanted to be released from the team because he didn’t like his role in 2018. Since then, it’s been radio silence from him and the Steelers.
Burnett was solid in 2018, and I thought he came along near the end of the season. Sure he had some bad plays and struggled with injuries, but I wouldn’t mind keeping him for safety depth and as the dime-backer for 2019. Ideally, Burnett has enough awareness to know that his starting days are over.
The ball seems to be in his court – if he really wants out, I imagine the Steelers would appease him. Thankfully safety depth in free agency and in the Draft is strong this year, so finding a replacement shouldn’t be too difficult.
Marcus Gilbert ($4.9 million saved in 2019)
This is probably the hottest take on my list - I think it would be wise for the Steelers to shop right tackle Marcus Gilbert this offseason. I see the reasoning why some are against the move: he’s a veteran, you don’t want to disrupt the line’s chemistry, he’s older and injury-prone so you may not get a great return for him.
I counter all this with two points:
2) This is a league desperate for good offensive linemen, and I think some team would jump on Gilbert and give up a 3rd or 4th round pick for him.
Yes, he’s older and has dealt with more than his share of injuries, but he would be a significant upgrade for a team like Seattle or Houston. I’m not sure if this is a move that is likely, assuming Ben Roethlisberger and the coaching staff love Gilbert, but I think this would be a smart move to at least consider.
(Editors note: Marcus Gilbert has been traded to the Arizona Cardinals)
Artie Burns ($1.7 million saved in 2019)
Recently we’ve seen some teams wanting to wash their hands clean of their unreliable cornerbacks. Houston (Texans) cut Kevin Johnson. New York (Giants) traded Eli Apple. Maybe it’s time for the Steelers to follow and move on from Artie Burns.
The former first-rounder is in an odd situation. He seemingly improved over his first two seasons, but last year all his confidence seemed to disappear and he became a legitimate liability. The team may still have faith that Burns can regain his confidence and put together all of the tools that made the Steelers want to draft him. This seems like the most likely scenario, but in a time where the team's culture is under the microscope and the Super Bowl window with Roethlisberger is waning, flushing the secondary may be on the horizon.
Moving on from Burns wouldn't necessarily save a ton of cap space, but it could be a move that could be best for all involved.
Bud Dupree ($9.2 million saved in 2019)
Bud Dupree is unique on this list because currently, the Steelers have exercised his 5th-year option, paying him roughly $9 million in guaranteed money. The Steelers have a window to rescind this (3/13/2019) but I’m unsure how likely they are to do so.
I don’t think he’s worth $9M, but the Steelers have almost no depth behind Dupree and really can’t afford to let him go. The only feasible scenario for Dupree leaving the team would be if the Steelers managed to land an EDGE in the Draft; maybe then the Steelers could trade Dupree to a team willing to take on his price tag.
With needs greater than edge rusher however, the wisest decision would be to focus on other positions. Odds are Dupree will be a Steeler in 2019.
Cap numbers via overthecap.com