In stark contrast to recent offseasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers have already handed out new contracts to seven different free agents coming from other teams over the course of the past month since the start of free agency.
In the process, they have handed out close to $40 million, with only Mike Mitchell’s contract extending beyond the 2015 season. That contract also made up the vast majority of that nearly $40 million total, coming in at $25 million over five seasons.
One way that they managed to hand out all that money—in addition to their many re-signings, most notably the nearly $10 million committed to Jason Worilds—is because those contracts include comparatively little guaranteed money.
Mitchell’s contract, for example, totaled just $5.25 million in guarantees over the life of the five-year contract.
Given the questions of consistency that surround him considering that he’s coming off just one solid season with the Carolina Panthers, it gives the Steelers the opportunity to opt out with little damage done should Mitchell underperform before the contract’s base salary values top out in the later years.
After losing both Ziggy Hood and Al Woods, the Steelers sought help along the defensive line by adding Cam Thomas on a two-year, $4 million contract, with a $1 million signing bonus as a guarantee.
Lance Moore’s two-year, $3 million contract only included a guaranteed value of $645,000, while LeGarrette Blount’s two-year deal worth close to $4 million came with just under $1 million in guarantees.
Of the other three contracts the Steelers reached with outside veteran free agents, all were veteran-minimum qualifying contracts with cash values of $730,000.
Each of those contracts came with a signing bonus of $65,000, assuming that is the case with the Darrius Heyward-Bey deal. Thus, the total guarantees of the three combined come to just $195,000.
All told, assuming the aforementioned contract values, the Steelers have committed just $8,040,000 to their seven signings this offseason in guarantees.
Yet the seven contracts that they handed out to these free agents, assuming they all reach their maximum values, total $38,040,000.
With little more than 20 percent of the total values of those signings actually being guaranteed, the Steelers have put themselves in a position of being able to minimize the damage should any of those contracts not pan out for whatever reason. Given their cap issues, that was certainly a point of focus in their contract workings this offseason.