Terence Steele is about to get a big raise from the Cowboys. But even at the $4.3 million he will reportedly get from the second-round restricted free agent tender, Steele should still give Dallas considerable value at that price and be one of their better bargains for the 2023 season.
News came recently that the Cowboys intend to give Steele the second-round RFA tender. Because he only entered the league in 2020 as an undrafted free agent, Steele is coming into free agency a year ahead of the standard four-year rookie contract. According to the collective bargaining agreement, he doesn't qualify for unrestricted free agency until he’s had four accrued seasons.
The RFA tenders for 2023 are $6 million for first-round pick compensation, $4.3 million for a second-rounder, and $2.6 million for original draft choice or right of first refusal. If another team offers Steele a contract and Dallas declines to match, that club would owe the Cowboys their second-round pick in the next NFL draft.
Steele only averaged $765k over his original three-year deal. His compensation from last season to next will more than quadruple, but in no way does that make it bad business for Dallas.
Gone are the days when right tackles made considerably less money than their brothers on the left side. The top-seven active contracts for right tackles currently in the NFL are all averaging $11.5 million or more per season, with some as high as $18-$19 million.
Steele graded out as one of the NFL’s better right tackles in 2022, especially in run blocking. Dallas’ rushing offense saw a sharp decline when he was lost to a knee injury. Thankfully, his rehab appears to be going very well and he’s on point for a full return and even to be ready for training camp.
With other fish to fry this offseason in terms of big-name free agents and positional issues, the Cowboys are fortunate to be able to retain Steele at such a discounted cost. The $4.3 million RFA tender is at least a third, if not less, than the 25-year-old might be able to average in a new contract as an unrestricted free agent.
As Dallas defers the long-term decision on Steele to 2024, they now increase their leverage in deciding how to handle Tyron Smith’s future. With Steele and Tyler Smith as a solid option for starters at offensive tackle going tackle, the Cowboys can play hardball with Tyron to either take a significant pay cut or become a salary cap casualty.
We’ll see how the offensive tackle position and the rest of the offensive line shakes out over the coming offseason. But for now, as has been predicted, Terence Steele is a virtual lock to be part of the plan. It’s hard to see another team forking over a second-round pick to poach him, so the Cowboys should have secured at least this asset for 2023.