So much for the impending uncapped year keeping deals getting done for players entering the final seasons of their contracts.
Steelers tight end Heath Miller, who would have been a restricted free agent in March 2010 absent a new labor deal, nevertheless reeled in a six-year, $35.3 million deal prior to the final year of his rookie contract.
That’s the kind of money that typically gets paid out when a guy has leverage. In this case, Miller didn’t.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Miller deal impacts ongoing negotiations for other players (like Leon Washington of the Jets and Braylon Edwards of the Browns) who are entering the final season of a rookie deal and facing possible restricted free agency if there’s an uncapped year in 2010.
Assuming that it’s not a backloaded deal that the Steelers eventually will renegotiate or terminate, the $5.88 annual average puts Miller at No. 5 among all NFL tight ends.
As we pointed out in connection with the Owen Daniels impasse in Houston, Dallas Clark of the Colts has a $6.9 million annual average, Tampa’s Kellen Winslow is at $6.5 million per year, Tony Gonzalez of the Falcons is at $6.25 million, and the Broncos’ Daniel Graham averages $6 million.
The next guy behind Miller is Jeremy Shockey of the Saints, at $5.1 million.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also points out that Miller received a $12.5 million signing bonus.
We’re not saying the Steelers got fleeced on this one. But it doesn’t strike us as the same team-friendly deal that the defending champs finagled from Max Starks, who as a franchise player had a lot more leverage than Miller — and who got a lot less money in relation to the market for the left tackle position.