The Steelers had some extra money to throw around last year in free agency and did just that, as they spent more than $157 million in total contract value, including $77 million in first-year cash value.
After a cap-strapped COVID-19 year, they changed the types and structures of contracts they gave out, and they had to make some tough decisions to put a team on the field for 2021 with an eye on 2022. The plan was to set up the organization to construct the team however it wanted in 2022, with very few players under contract for more than two years.
At their leisure, the Steelers re-signed nine of their free agents (both unrestricted and restricted) last year, with Chukwuma Okorafor getting the most lucrative deal at $10 million per year.
Now, the Steelers have 21 unrestricted and restricted free agents and just about $1 million in projected cap space, according to Over the Cap. But they have the ability to create cap space by releasing players, restructuring contracts and perhaps signing a player or two to an extension. Money won’t be what decides who stays and who goes.
Unlike years past, the Steelers have some free agents who will draw significant interest on the market. These are the top 10, ranked in order of who will garner the most outside interest.
1. CB Cameron Sutton, 27
When the Steelers drafted Sutton in the third round in 2017, he was viewed as a jack of all trades. He could play corner, slot, safety and dime, and the Steelers asked him to do pretty much all of that … until this year. The Steelers used Sutton more as a traditional cornerback in 2020, and he produced with the big names at the position. He was sixth in passes defensed with 15 and had three interceptions. He allowed a passer rating of 65.3 when his coverage was targeted, which is spectacular. A couple of dropped interceptions would have put him among the league leaders in that category. The Steelers would love to keep Sutton, and he recently told the team’s website that he would like to stay. But with his market value projected by Spotrac at $23 million over three years, he should garner interest from many teams that are looking to upgrade the position for relatively cheap. For a guy who has made $12 million over his first six seasons, money will come into play
2. S Terrell Edmunds, 26
The entire NFL had about a month and a half to sign Edmunds last year, as he sat on the free-agent market until late April looking for an offer. He settled for a one-year, $2.5 million deal to come back to the Steelers and had the best season of his career. Although the stats don’t jump off the sheet, he was a good pairing with Minkah Fitzpatrick, allowing the All-Pro to move around. Edmunds is more of a box safety than anything else but continued to be asked to cover tight ends weekly. The free-agent market is littered with top-end safeties like Jessie Bates, Jordan Poyer, Jimmie Ward and Vonn Bell. Edmunds, like Sutton, might only need an offer to stay. “If they do offer me another deal, of course, I would try to make things work and go from there,” he told reporters in early January. Spotrac has Edmunds’ market value set at $5.4 million per year, which is affordable.