On Tuesday, Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote an article that spells doom and gloom for the Pittsburgh Steelers salary cap situation, for not only this year, but the next few years as well.
The narrative of Robinson \’s article revolves around the Steelers restructuring of contracts and how it prevents them from being active in free agency as a result. Like they have ever been active in free agency?
Robinson writes, “Ben Roethlisberger, for example, is renegotiating his contract almost annually, and it is causing money to stack up against future caps. His contract counts $13.595 million against the cap this season, but that rises to $17.895 million in 2014 and also counts $17.395 million against the \’15 cap. And the Steelers already have more than $34 million counting against their 2016 cap because of the restructured deals of Woodley, Timmons and Brown.”
Robinson then adds a little dagger that is sure to get a rise out of most Steelers fans. “Constantly pushing money forward can limit their ability to be players for proven free-agent talent.”
Once again, when was the last time that the Steelers have ever been very active in free agency? Perhaps Robinson needs a history refresher concerning the free agents that the Steelers have signed since general manager Kevin Colbert came on board in 2000.
As far as the rest of Robinson\’s article goes, he missed an opportunity to twist the knife harder into the backs of Steelers fans, as his numbers for Roethlisberger are wrong. The Steelers quarterback is actually scheduled to count $18.895 million in 2014 and $18.395 million in 2015 after his latest contract restructure.
That error aside, when you look at the Steelers top ten salary cap hits in 2014, which you can see in the table below, you will notice that it totals out at $93,151,836. That top ten also includes guard Willie Colon and his $4.3 million dead money charge that will hit the 2014 books on June 2nd of this year.
While that $93 million looks like a lot right now, as it is 74% of an estimated $125 million 2014 cap number, you have to look closer at the names and numbers on the list and put yourself in the shoes of Colbert and Omar Khan.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, for starters, is all but certain to have his contract extended next off-season. That extension will include rolling a big chunk of his $12.1 million base salary that he is sceduled to earn into the signing bonus of his new deal. The result of that extension will be a drop in his 2014 cap number. How big of drop? My rough estimates say it will be around $5 million or so, but that is a shot in the dark right now.
Tight end Heath Miller will be entering into his final year of his current contract next off-season. Despite the knee injury that he suffered late last season, he should be fully recovered by then and all of 31 years old. Like Roethlisberger, he will more than likely receive an extension. That extension will lower his scheduled $7,966,500 2014 cap hit.
Center Maurkice Pouncey will also be entering the final year of his rookie contract next off-season and he too will be prime for an extension. While his $4.639 million cap number in 2014 doesn\’t seem all that big, it will be lowered some via an extension.
That now brings us to safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor, who like Colon and linebacker James Harrison this year, will both be elephants in the room next off-season. Raise you hand if you think that Taylor will be allowed to stay in 2014 with a base salary of $7 million. If he does, he better have had made the Pro Bowl in 2013 and registered three or four interceptions. It is a good bet that Taylor will be asked to take a pay cut next off-season, in what would be his final year under contract, or be released, the latter of which clears $7 million in cap space.
Polamalu is a giant long-haired enigma elephant right now. His play and ability to stay on the field in 2013 will make his 2014 status crystal clear. Just so you know, 2014 is the final year of his contract, and should he decide to retire or wind up being released, it will clear $8.25 million in cap space.
Linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons will more than likely have their contracts left alone next off-season, but should the team need additional cap space for whatever reason – say like a career threatening injury to Roethlisberger – there is money to be had via the restructure process. This far out, however, I don\’t think it will be necessary.
Wide receiver Antonio Brown, assuming he returns to his 2011 form in 2013, will be the first player that the Steelers go to if a restructure needs to be done next off-season.
So that\’s eight of the top ten cap hits in 2014 that we have addressed in this post with a ton of cap savings to be had. To recap, three players will likely be extended and one player, maybe two, will be restructured. The two elephants in the room will decide their own fates in 2013.
Will there be more releases and dead money hits next off-season, outside of what I listed above? Sure, but the contracts that linebacker Larry Foote, cornerback William Gay and tight end Matt Spaeth all signed this off-season are all cap friendly when it comes to potential dead money in 2014. In fact, should all three be released next off-season, it will only total out at $1,137,500 worth of dead money. Their cap savings alone, should all three be released next off-season, totals out to be $3,637,500, which could easily go towards a first year cap hit in a new deal for linebacker Jason Worilds, should he play well enough in 2013 to deserve one.
Robinson included a quote from Colbert talking about the salary cap in his article.
Steelers 2014 Top 10 Scheduled Cap Charges