With about a half-dozen moves so far this offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers have chipped away about $20 million, give or take, from their salary cap in the 2014, leaving them with about $3 million in cap space as of this writing.
In the red. By offering cap-friendly two-year extensions to Heath Miller and Troy Polamalu, that was cut just about in half.
The releases of Larry Foote, Curtis Brown, and Levi Brown brought them within striking distance of cap compliancy, and the restructure two days ago of Antonio Brown’s contract leaves us where we are now.
And that may be good enough, in the Steelers’ eyes.
Outside of a long-term extension for Worilds and a post-June release for LaMarr Woodley, the Steelers don’t necessarily have to make any more cap-saving moves if it’s not in their plans to do so, and they very well may not.
A long-term extension with Worilds has been, of course, the plan all along, and an eventual deal could save around $5 million in cap space for the 2014 season. That would give the Steelers around $8 million to play around with in order to sign all of their pending free agents that they would like to retain, thanks in large part to displacement value.
That list would include names like Jonathan Dwyer, Jerricho Cotchery, Al Woods, Fernando Velasco, and potentially others such as Cody Wallace, Ziggy Hood, LaRod Stephens-Howling, and Stevenson Sylvester, to name just a few.
That may be more than enough cap room to take them into June, when they would reap the rewards of the Woodley release to the tune of close to $8 million. That, combined with any leftover from before, could be enough to sign their draft class, perhaps work out an extension or two with younger players on the rise, and, importantly, stow away an in-season kitty of a couple million dollars for emergencies.
Yes, the Steelers have other means of relatively efficiently carving out additional cap space in 2014, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to the front office intending to utilize all options to maximal capacity.
They could restructure Lawrence Timmons’ contract in a similar manner to which they restructured the contract of Brown, which would save a comparable amount of a little under $4 million.
They could expedite the process of a contract extension with Ben Roethlisberger before any more quarterbacks cash in and raise the ceiling for the position, thereby saving millions in cap space this year and allowing his inflated salaries to kick in just as the salary cap begins to swell.
They could demand that Ike Taylor take a pay cut by several million dollars. They could go so far as to release him, thereby saving the equivalent of his 2014 salary, which comes in at $7 million.
They could do all these things and wind up with $30 million in cap space if they really wanted to.
But there’s no rush. The Steelers aren’t going to go diving head first into free agency just began they finally can for a change. That’s not their way. That’s never been their way.
Early indications seem to be that free agents are going to be in for a treat this offseason, likely due in large part to the rise of the salary cap. Last year, for example, cornerbacks in particular seemed to be taking relatively modest salaries.
This free agency period already, Brent Grimes has re-upped with the Miami Dolphins for $8 million a season, with $16 guaranteed, while Sam Shields just cashed in with a contract close to $10 million per season, both contracts on four-year deals.
If the cost of doing business in free agency means overpaying, don’t expect the Steelers to pay to play. They’ll feel out the market and if they feel they can make some affordable moves, they’ll make the necessary cap maneuvers that they have to in order to conduct business. Otherwise, they may just leave well enough alone.