The Steelers were surprisingly gifted cornerback Joe Haden midway through the preseason two years ago when he was released by the Browns.
A former Pro Bowl cornerback, Haden has been everything the team expected when it signed him to a three-year, $27-million contract after his release by Cleveland. Now, the Steelers face the tough decision about what to do with Haden moving forward.
Haden, 30, is entering the final season of his contract, which will pay him a $10 million base salary in 2019. And the Steelers are interested in signing him to an extension that could possibly lower his $11.9-million salary-cap hit.
But Haden's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told me nothing is happening at this time on the new contract front. Given that July is now upon us, that means nothing is likely to happen with a new contract for Haden until training camp opens July 25.
Part of the issue for the Steelers is they have so little cap space with which to maneuver. Currently, they have just under $985,000 in available cap space.
Also compounding the issue is that three-fifths of their starting secondary is all represented by Rosenhaus. Free safety Sean Davis and nickel corner Mike Hilton are also represented by Rosenhaus. And like Haden, Davis is heading into the final season of his contract, while Hilton has declined to sign his one-year $645,00 exclusive-rights tender because he would like a long-term deal.
The Steelers can hardly talk new contract with Haden without the others knowing what is going on. And that could lead to some hard feelings.
"I'm not worried about it," Hilton told me of his contract situation on the final day of the team's minicamp last month. "It will take care of itself. All I can do is continue to come to work each day and let my agent handle all of that."
Hilton told me he intends to report to training camp and won't hold out, but to set foot on the practice field at Saint Vincent College, he'll need to sign his contract. He could do so in good faith the Steelers will give him a long-term deal, but to do that, the team will have to find a way to create more salary cap space.
One way for that to happen could be a long-term deal with Haden that lowers his 2019 cap hit. See the issue?