The annual mandatory minicamps around the NFL have now concluded, and prior to that, this past week saw several members of the 2023 draft class agree to terms on their rookie contracts. However, the Pittsburgh Steelers still haven’t signed their top three picks in the 2023 NFL Draft: tackle Broderick Jones, cornerback Joey Porter Jr. and defensive tackle Keeanu Benton. If you’re wondering why that is, I’ll explain the reasons why each player is still unsigned at this point in the offseason below.
T Broderick Jones – The four-year contract that Jones is expected to sign, due to his playing position, should be right around $16,626,353. Additionally, it’s also easy to predict that all four years of Jones’ deal will be fully guaranteed. The most significant holdup when it comes to getting Jones signed is more than likely related to the payout timeframe for his expected signing bonus, which should be right around $9,091,893. According to rookie NFL contract enthusiast Daniel Salib, the Steelers usually pay 75 to 85 percent of the signing bonus for their first-round picks within 15 days of signing their contracts and then the rest in October. So the two sides are probably still haggling a bit about that part of the contract. The holdup could also just be of a procedural nature.
It should be noted that a pair of first-round picks on either side of Jones have yet to sign their rookie deals, and once again, the delay in those signings is also likely related to signing bonus payout timeframes. Once Jones is boxed in a bit more, we should see him sign his rookie contract. Last year, the Steelers signed their 2022 first-round draft pick, quarterback Kenny Pickett, on June 23. He was the 20th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
CB Joey Porter Jr. – The four-year contract that Porter is expected to sign should be right around $9,618,343 due to his playing position. The delay in Porter being signed is likely related to where he was drafted. He was the 32nd overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and that slot is usually in the first round. The reason he was the 32nd overall pick this year is because the Miami Dolphins had to lose their first round pick. Porter’s side will likely argue that the cornerback’s contract should be fully guaranteed as if he were drafted in the first round. At the very least, his agent will argue that a high percentage of Porter’s fourth and final years are fully guaranteed.
Picked one pick after Porter in the 2023 NFL Draft was quarterback Will Levis, and while the trend of this year’s second-round selections to date now has him on track to have 25 percent of his fourth and final year fully guaranteed, his agent might push Tennessee Titans for a higher number with him at quarterback. The Levis side may also be waiting to see what percentage of Porter’s fourth and final year is fully guaranteed so they can negotiate their way out of it.
While the signings under Porter now dictate that the cornerback has 30 percent of his fourth and final year fully guaranteed, we could see the two sides haggle and settle on a percentage right around 75. I highly doubt the Steelers will cave and fully guarantee Porter’s entire rookie contract just because he was the 32nd overall pick this year. In short, we might be waiting quite a bit longer for Porter to sign his rookie contract, especially if Levis and his team wait for the cornerback to sign his deal. Frankly, there’s a decent chance that either Porter or Levis ends up being the last member of the 2023 draft class to sign their rookie deals.
DT Keeanu Benton – As for Benton remaining unsigned at this point in the offseason, that situation is likely related to the percentage of guarantees in the third year of his rookie contract. Benton’s four-year rookie contract is expected to be around $7,333,121, with the first two years of it certainly being fully guaranteed. The players selected one spot before and one spot after Benton in the 2023 NFL Draft, guard Cody Mauch and wide receiver Jayden Reed, respectively, both also remain unsigned.
Mauch appears to be the most important domino in this group of three players, and that’s because of where the offensive lineman was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Last year, Washington Commanders defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis, the 47th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, had 8% of the third year of his rookie contract guaranteed. According to Salib, he was the last player to receive any three-year guarantees.
Mauch, the 48th overall pick in this year’s draft, should be able to get 8% or more of his third year guaranteed, Sailb speculates. In return, he told me Benton should also be able to get 5 to 10 percent of his third year guaranteed. So when it comes to Benton, it may be a waiting game for him to see what percentages of year three that Mauch and Reed both get. Incidentally, Benton is right near the middle of several 2023 second-round selections that also remain unsigned.