As previously reported, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Drew Rosenhaus, the agent of tackle Marcus Gilbert, have allegedly had preliminary talks about a potential contract extension before the regular season begins.
Gilbert, entering his fourth season, is in the final year of his rookie contract, and would be scheduled to hit free agency should he play out this season without coming to an agreement on a new contract.
To no surprise, there are many followers of the team who do not support such a move.
On the surface, I have no significant objections to it—provided that the numbers are reasonable and it doesn’t prevent the organization from accomplishing higher priority goals, such as working out an extension with Cortez Allen.
While the organization still has two years each left on the contracts of Kelvin Beachum and Mike Adams, their futures are no more set in stone than is Gilbert’s. Beachum may be the favorite to start the season as the left tackle now, for example, but that doesn’t mean he will be paid like a franchise left tackle when the time comes.
I have written multiple times this offseason on the topic of the offensive tackles and how it is critical that the Steelers start getting their answers at the position this season. To that end, it would seem more prudent to allow Gilbert to finish out his contract before committing a certain amount of money to him.
Gilbert has essentially been a starter for his entire career. He has played in 35 games in three years, and started 34 of them. A significant ankle injury caused him to miss the majority of the 2012 season, which limited him to five games.
In other words, he will be seeking starter money for his services, naturally. The market for right tackles over the past offseason settled in to the $4-6 million per year range, and that is not wholly unreasonable for Gilbert. But working out a deal now rather than once he hits free agency might make more financial sense.
Additionally, you don’t want to have zero answers next offseason with both Beachum and Adams entering their final years. Having Gilbert already in hand could be a negotiating chip in possible contract extensions next season.
Of course, you could potentially run the risk of paying starter money for a player who ultimately loses his starting position, which would again suggest that waiting is the most prudent position to take. And it might be.
But there’s no compelling reason to me when I watch Gilbert play that says he isn’t capable of being an everyday starter. We have to consider the amount of injuries that either caused him to miss time or he had to play through, the latter being the case last season.
And he also sounds like a player who is not only maturing, but becoming accountable, and invested in individual and team success, as reflected in this recent quote published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
“I’m just coming out here trying to get better, trying to become a complete player, trying to win a Super Bowl. I know the guys we have up front—they drafted us there for a reason—we’re the group that can get us over the hump. It’s time now. It’s time for us to get going. Every guy has a chip on their shoulder”.
I’m not sure that we would have heard this from him last season. We’ve heard him talk about his own individual ambitions before, but not so much the broader collective. Perhaps it’s just the natural process of aging:
“As you get older you realize your snaps are limited. You only play the game for so long. I just want to maximize every chance I have to be here and show them what I’m worth. I don’t want to miss any time. I don’t want anyone to take my reps. That’s the type of demeanor you have to have”.
This is a far cry from where he was from a mental standpoint in his rookie season. Should he blossom under Mike Munchak, then a contract extension now would look awfully smart in the future. It’s a gamble, but if all the other offseason checkmarks are done, it’s something to consider in late July or August.