Boswell: Steelers have started negotiations on long-term contract

August 12, 2018
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Steelers place kicker Chris Boswell watches as his 41-yard field goal splits the up rights as time runs out on the Bengals as the Steelers win 23-20 Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

He accounted for more points -- combined -- than Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown last season. He won’t get an eight-figure salary, but kicker Chris Boswell might be in line for a pay bump that gets him closer to the Steelers’ star playmakers.

Boswell, scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, revealed Sunday the Steelers and his agent have started negotiations on a long-term contract. Boswell said talks began at the “beginning of the week,” but he purposely hasn’t gotten many updates.

The Steelers typically negotiate with players who have a year remaining on their contracts during training camp, cutting off talks once the regular season starts.

“I’m just going to let it play out,” Boswell said. “I told my agent I don’t really want to hear about it. Just let me kick, and if we get something done, we get something done. I don’t want to sit here every day and think about where we are at and where we are going. It’s not going to change.”

As a restricted free agent, Boswell received -- and signed -- a $2.914 million tender for this season. That’s a significant increase over the $615,000 he earned in 2017, but an extension could put him in line financially with some of the top kickers in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears and free agent Cody Parkey agreed to a four-year contract that includes $9 million in guaranteed money. The Tennessee Titan re-signed Ryan Succop to a five-year deal with $7.5 million in guarantees, and the Carolina Panthers kept Graham Gano from testing free agency with a four-year deal that has $9 million in guarantees.

Boswell’s salary as a restricted free agent ranks him No. 15 among kickers. The Steelers, according to players’ association figures, are $3.7 million under the salary cap. With any signing bonus spread out several years, the Steelers can maneuver the numbers to have flexibility with the salary cap.

“I’m here this year,” Boswell said. “If it happens, it happens. If not, we’ll worry about it after the season.”

Boswell, 27, set a single-season franchise record with 35 field goals, and he had 142 points last year when he was named to his first Pro Bowl. For comparison purposes, Bell (66) and Brown (56) combined for 122 points.

Boswell also was a reason the Steelers finished 13-3 in the regular season instead of possibly 9-7. He had four game-winning field goals, including three with no time left on the clock. His 92.1 percent conversion rate was a career high, and he made all four of his attempts from 50 yards or longer.

“Kicking is kicking, it really doesn’t change (no matter) the time of the game,” Boswell said. “Practice or game, I have to treat every kick the same. If I start missing every kick out here, they’ll bring another kicker. It’s not like practice is any different than a game for me.

“I take every kick as a game rep and go from there.”

One adjustment Boswell -- as well as all other kickers -- must make this year is to the new kickoff rules implemented during the offseason. Kickoff units must have five players on each side of the ball, and the 5-yard running start has been reduced to a single yard. Return units must have eight players in a 15-yard setup zone. Wedge blocking also has been eliminated.

Boswell didn’t watch the Hall of Fame game and has no idea what to expect when the Steelers open preseason play Thursday night in Philadelphia. Kickers could continue to boot the ball out of the end zone or drop it inside the 5 to force a return.

“Everybody is going to take something from other teams,” he said. “There is going to be a lot of watching each other and finding out what works and doesn’t work.”

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