Steelers Will Not Extend G James Daniels In 2024

As Cameron Heyward extension uncertainty looms, it does not appear the Steelers have ruled out a fourth contract with their stalwart defensive lineman. It does, however, look like they are passing on another agreement with one of their interior O-line starters — for 2024, at least.

The topic of a James Daniels extension surfaced earlier this offseason, but the two-year Pittsburgh starter effectively shut this issue down by confirming (via The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly) the team does not plan to extend him before the season. Considering the Steelers do not do in-season extensions, Daniels is set to play out his contract year.

Daniels should have an opportunity to cash in once again as a free agent in 2025; despite this being the former Bears second-rounder’s seventh NFL season, he will only be 27 by the time the market opens next year. The Steelers confirming they want to have him play out the three-year, $26.5MM deal to which he is attached raises the stakes for the Iowa product.

The Steelers moved on from the two other veteran O-linemen they signed in 2022 by cutting both Chukwuma Okorafor and Mason Cole in February. Those moves came months after the team traded Kevin Dotson to the Rams. Dotson has since fetched a three-year, $48MM deal to stay in Los Angeles. This bodes well for Daniels, whose 2025 departure could leave the Steelers vulnerable at guard.

Pittsburgh, which went 27 years between first-round tackle investments before drafting Broderick Jones in 2023, has used Round 1 choices on tackles in back-to-back years. The team is set at those spots, and second-rounder Zach Frazier will be viewed as likely to take over at center. The team signed Isaac Seumalo to a three-year, $24MM deal in 2023. The former Eagles blocker is going into his age-31 season. With Daniels four years younger, he profiles as a pricier option on his third contract.

Pro Football Focus rated the Iowa alum 33rd among guards last season and 24th in his Steelers debut. ESPN’s pass block win rate metric slotted Daniels ninth among guards in 2022. The six-year NFL starter has missed just two games as a Steeler. Given the number of eight-figure-per-year guard paydays that came to pass in March, Daniels has a big opportunity ahead. Counting Landon Dickerson‘s extension, six guards — Dickerson, Dotson, Robert Hunt, Jonah Jackson, Damien Lewis, Jon Runyan Jr. — all signed deals at or north of $10MM per year this offseason. The salary cap will rise once again next year.

The Steelers used a fourth-round pick on Mason McCormick this year. Although the team found a gem in Dotson out of Round 4 back in 2020, it would be interesting if it was already earmarking a spot for McCormick in 2025. The Steelers hold exclusive negotiating rights with Daniels until March 2025, and while the Rams did use those well by coming to terms with Dotson before free agency started, Daniels playing out his contract year would put him in a position to raise his value and hit free agency.

As it stands, the Steelers appear prepared to let that happen. While the team has a low-cost quarterback situation for 2024, it has been tied to interest in extensions for Russell Wilson and/or Justin Fields. One of the QBs almost definitely will not be back, but the Steelers may need to factor in a bigger quarterback contract to its calculous next year. With several big-ticket deals on the books for defenders, that complicates matters for players like Daniels.

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