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Steelers restructure DT Cam Heyward's contract, clear $7M in cap space

The Pittsburgh Steelers have some significant financial jockeying to do in order to put the team in a competitive position entering 2021, and they took an initial step toward such a goal Monday.

Pittsburgh restructured veteran defensive lineman Cameron Heyward's contract, converting his roster bonus and base salary into a signing bonus to create $7 million in cap room, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Heyward will still receive the $10.5M he was due for 2021, but will be paid via one bonus instead of over the term of his base salary (plus the March roster bonus) for the upcoming season.

The restructure is a standard conversion procedure for a team looking to create space and trusting a veteran's history to be worth paying the bulk of his annual money up front in a bonus. The important difference, though, is Pittsburgh's current cap situation, which leaves the Steelers over the cap by roughly $19M after the Heyward restructure with a projected cap of $180M (the current cap floor, per the NFL). This matters because the Steelers still have a decision to make at quarterback, with Ben Roethlisberger accounting for $41.25M of the team's total cap space for 2021.

Pittsburgh could create more space (slightly under $4M) with a similar restructure for fellow defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt, per Over The Cap, but the significant savings opportunities end there for players under contract in 2021. The Steelers are going to need to get more creative -- or ruthless -- with their roster moves if they want to keep Roethlisberger at or near his current number in 2021.

Last week, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was noncommittal on Pittsburgh's future with Roethlisberger, echoing the words of Rams GM Les Snead just days before Los Angeles shipped Jared Goff to Detroit for Matthew Stafford. Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh's franchise quarterback since way back in 2004, is a Steeler right now, and Colbert admitted Roethlisberger and the team "have to look at this current situation."

Interestingly, that remaining $19M in payroll that exceeds the projected salary cap floor for 2021? That's essentially equal to what the Steelers would save if they traded or cut Roethlisberger.

Don't put those calculators and red pens away any time soon. The Steelers have a ways to go before they're back in the black -- and it could be without Roethlisberger in black and gold.

Here's other news Around The NFL is monitoring on Monday:

  • The Houston Texans announced Monday that Janice S. McNair and the Houston Texans donated $500,000 to the Greater Houston/Harris County 2021 Winter Storm Relief Fund.

"We are happy to lend a helping hand to our fellow neighbors during challenging times like these," McNair said in a statement. "I'd like to express my sincere gratitude to Mayor Turner and Judge Hidalgo for their leadership of the relief fund and including us in the recovery efforts. This city is full of strong and resilient people who will benefit greatly from these funds." 

Per the team release, the fund will focus on grantmaking to local nonprofits that will focus on the needs of families to recover from the recent devastation brought on by harsh winter weather, which would include assistance with plumbing and home repairs and temporary housing. 

The Texans are re-signing running back/returner Dontrell Hilliard to a one-year deal worth $1.25 million, Rapoport reported. The deal includes $200,000 guaranteed for Hilliard, who split time in 2020 with the Browns and Texans. Hilliard was previously set to be a restricted free agent.

  • The San Francisco 49ers announced Monday they had signed wide receiver River Cracraft to a one-year extension.
  • The Philadelphia Eagles officially released wide receiver DeSean Jackson on Monday, Rapoport reported per the transaction wire. Jackson's release was initially reported on Friday. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is also expected to be released by the Eagles when the new league year commences in March, Rapoport reported.
  • Indianapolis Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo officially retired, Rapoport reported per the wire.
  • The Cleveland Browns re-signed cornerback Robert Jackson, Rapoport reported per the wire. Jackson played the previous two seasons with the Browns.
  • The Carolina Panthers announced Monday the signing of wide receivers Brandon Zylstra and Keith Kirkwood to one-year deals. Both were set to be restricted free agents. The team also announced Monday that it promoted assistant line coach Frank Okam to defensive line coach and added Garrett McGuire and Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton as coaching assistants. Knighton and McGuire previously played under Panthers head coach Matt Rhule at Temple and Baylor, respectively.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer announced via Twitter the hiring of Amy Palcic as the leader of the team's communications department.

In other Jaguars news, the team is expected to decline the option of tight end Tyler Eifert, Rapoport reported, making the veteran tight end a free agent after one season with the club.

  • The Atlanta Falcons announced seven additions to their coaching staff on Monday: Roderick Moore Jr., and Bobby Thomas were named assistant strength and conditioning coaches, Mario Jeberaeel was brought on as a diversity coaching intern and Paul Rice, Charles Walker, Sal Conti and Patrick Kramer were named football analysts.

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