The Pittsburgh Steelers have been busy re-signing several of their exclusive rights free agents this offseason but with that said, tackle Alejandro Villanueva apparently hasn’t signed his offered one-year tender. Whether he has or hasn’t signed that speculated given tender yet really isn’t a big deal as that will ultimately need to happen if he wants to play in 2017. That is, however, unless he signs a more lucrative contract extension instead.
According to a Thursday story by Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it appears as though the Steelers are indeed attempting to sign Villanueva long-term this offseason even though they technically can have him very cheap for the next two seasons. In short, the Steelers have quite a bit of leverage right now when it comes to Villanueva and thus it would make sense for the two sides to work out some sort of fair long-term deal in the coming weeks.
While Villanueva isn’t currently considered by many to be one of the top 10 left tackles in the NFL, there’s no denying that his play has gotten increasingly better over the course of the 31 total games that he’s started dating back to Week 7 of the 2016 regular season. He’s also currently just 28 years old and when combined with the fact that his NFL career essentially started in 2015, he figures to have at least three of four good seasons left in him.
Assuming the Steelers do indeed want to extend Villanueva during the offseason, one then needs to figure out what kind of deal would be fair for both sides. Additionally, it might be worth noting that fellow Steelers tackle Marcus Gilbert currently averages $6 million a season as a result of the extension he signed in 2014.
Would Villanueva entertain a three-year, $15 million deal this offseason and one that would likely put around $6 million in his pocket when he signs, and roughly $10.5 million after two seasons?
In case you’re curious, the Steelers could give Villanueva $6 million in 2017 and if $5 million of that were paid to him as a signing bonus, his salary cap charge this season would be almost $2.7 million. To help absorb that this season, the Steelers could part ways with veteran tackle Ryan Harris, who is scheduled to earn a base salary of $1.9 million in 2017. Even if the Steelers wanted to pay Villanueva the same average as Gilbert, they could probably do so with his 2017 cap charge only being roughly $3 million.
While Villanueva would still be one of the lowest paid starting left tackles in the league at that point, he’d still earn a lot more than he would if tendered as an exclusive rights free agent this offseason and a restricted free agent a year from now. Signing a new three-year contract now would also potentially set Villanueva up to cash in one final time in 2020 at the age of 31.
We’ll have to wait and see how things ultimately wind up playing out with Villanueva in the coming weeks and months but it won’t be surprising to see the team work out a long-term deal with him well prior to the start of training camp as it makes sense for both sides to do just that.