The drafting of Florida tackle Marcus Gilbert in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft was the second dip into high-end offensive line pool in as many years, having previously added center Maurkice Pouncey, his college teammate and close friend, in the first round the year prior to that.
Pouncey, in fact, was instrumental in encouraging the Pittsburgh Steelers to draft him the following year. He had such an impact during his rookie season, helping to stabilize an offensive line that proved to be a Super Bowl contender en route to an All-Pro season, that the team deemed his insights worthy of consideration.
It may have taken a few years of developing, but Gilbert ultimately redeemed his friend in recommending him, and the two have been at the heart of the Steelers’ offensive line, now one of the best in the league for years. In fact, both of them received contract extensions the same year, during the summer of 2014.
Pouncey, who had already established himself as a perennial All-Pro that point when healthy, was given a contract that made him the highest-paid player at his position at the time. Gilbert…not so much. To be quite frank, his play since signing what was even then a relatively mid-range contract has been significantly better.
So much better, in fact, that it has become quite obvious that he has outplayed what he is earning, even if he has not yet earned the Pro Bowl accolades that one might expect. I would think that most keen observers of offensive line play readily recognize him as one of the best right tackles in the league.
And he would prefer to be paid like one.
According to Jeremy Fowler, he told reporters yesterday that his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, spoke to the front office a week ago about his contract status, but that he doesn’t know about the current stance. He said that it is “complete BS” when players say that they don’t look at contract numbers. But he also said that he wants to be a part of something great in Pittsburgh, and to be remembered for his play and achievements on the field, not his career earnings.
But he understands there are complications. For example, he has three years remaining on the contract extension that he signed at that time. According to Over the Cap, Gilbert signed a five-year, $30 million contract extension, averaging $6 million in new money per season. His base salary in 2017 is just $4 million. In 2018, it only goes up by $50 thousand. Even in 2019, it will not rise to even $5 million in base salary.
Based on cash spendings, and accounting for signing and roster bonuses, Gilbert’s 2017 salary ranks 17th in the league among right tackles, and will rank already 15th on the books for 2018, 14th for 2019. New contracts will be signed between now and then that would knock him further down the list.
It’s clear that his play entitles him to a higher salary, but what are his options when negotiating with a team that takes a hardline stance on extending the contracts of non-quarterback players with more than one year remaining on their current deal?
It will be very interesting to see if anything comes of this, because it should speak to how much they value Gilbert, and their flexibility as contract negotiators. They made some exceptions over the previous two years for Antonio Brown, forwarding him money from future seasons for two years. Do they value Gilbert enough to make a similar exception?