On Monday Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Pittsburgh Steelers had prioritized trying to sign four of their unrestricted free agents. As it turns out, the Steelers were able to hold onto one of the four, that being cornerback Cameron Sutton, who agreed to a two-year, $9 million deal.
But other than that, the Steelers were shut out, losing cornerback Mike Hilton to the Cincinnati Bengals, offensive lineman Matt Feiler to the Los Angeles Chargers, and most recently, defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, who, in the words of his agent, is heading back “to where it all started.”
Alualu, 33, is reportedly signing a two-year, $6 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team that selected him No. 10 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.
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Steelers Fall Short With a ‘Four-Year Qualifying Contract’?
By offering an average of $3 million a year—or a two-deal deal instead of one—the Jags may have enticed Alualu just enough to put him out of reach for the Steelers.
That’s because the Steelers might have been best-served by offering Alualu a “four-year qualifying contract,” so as to minimize the salary cap implications of his deal.
Per Front Office Football, such a contract “can be offered to a player with at least four credited seasons whose contract with a team has expired after being on said team for four or more consecutive, uninterrupted league years prior to his contract expiring….
“A qualifying contract under this benefit is a one-year deal with a base salary of up to $1.25 million more … than the minimum base salary for said player….
In other words, the Steelers could conceivably have offered Alualu a base salary of $2.325 million (plus a signing bonus of $137,000 for a total of $2.462 million) while incurring a cap charge of just $1.2125 million.
Obviously $2.462 million is less than $3 million per year, and that may have been the difference.
Tyson Alualu Was a Starter in Jacksonville
Regardless, Alualu returns to the city where he played for the first seven years of his career. Never mind the fact that Alualu has had a lot of success in Pittsburgh as part of a defensive line rotation. Jacksonville is where he had the most playing time.
Over the course of his first seven seasons, Alualu started 87 of 110 games for the Jaguars and recorded 258 tackles (177 solo), along with 17.5 sacks, 30 tackles for loss and 51 quarterback hits.
By comparison, in Pittsburgh he started 22 of 62 games with 140 tackles (75 solo) and had seven sacks, 16 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits, plus eight passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
As for filling the role that Alualu played in recent years, the most likely candidates to do so are Isaiah Buggs and/or Carlos Davis.
Buggs, a defensive tackle, is entering his third season after being drafted in the sixth round of the 2019 Draft out of Alabama. Buggs appeared in ten games in 2020 and recorded ten total tackles. As for Davis, he will be entering his second season after being drafted in the seventh round last year out of the University of Nebraska.
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