The 2015 NFL league year will begin one week from today and now that the new salary cap number has been announced, we can take a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers cap situation.
At the bottom of this post is a breakdown of all of the numbers and I will try to explain everything to you as thoroughly as I can.
For starters, the Steelers currently have 59 players under contract for the 2015 season following the release of wide receiver Lance Moore on Monday. As we sit here at the start of business Tuesday, all 59 of those cap charges should total out at $129,881,742.
Now, during the offseason teams use the Rule of 51 and that consist of the top 51 cap charges in addition to all dead money still on the books for that season. In the Steelers case, their top 51 cap charges currently total out at $126,401,742. They also currently have $9,746,743 in dead money that needs to be accounted for in 2015 so their rule of 51 number should be $136,148,485.
Now, being as the 2015 salary cap number was set Monday at $143,280,000, we have the Steelers initially being $7,131,515 under that based on their Rule of 51 number. However, the Steelers still have to account for one known credit and two known charges that are forthcoming.
Let’s start first with the credit.
Teams are allowed to rollover any unused cap space from the previous season and in the case of the Steelers, the NFLPA says that amount is $778,469. That credit gives the Steelers an adjusted cap number of $144,058,469. When you add that amount to the previous listed available cap space, that would put the team $7,909,984 under the cap.
Now, we must also account for the upcoming salary cap charges that should be hitting at the start of the new league year.
Let’s start with the workout bonus charge estimation.
The CBA states that players must earn a daily rate for workouts in 2015 of $195 and that the league will initially charge teams that amount times 80 players for 36 days at the start of the new league year. If you do the math, that equates to a total workout bonus charge of $561,600. Once the 2015 regular season begins, that amount will be removed and replaced with the actual workout bonus charges that the Steelers paid.
Now we will move on to the veteran cap credit charges that the Steelers incurred during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. It’s been a while ago, but if you need to refresh your memory as to what those charges were, here is the post that did on that back in 2011 after the new CBA went into action. In short, the Steelers used a total of $4.5 million in veteran cap credits in 2011 and 2012 and those have to be paid back over the course of four years starting last season. The $4.5 million divided by four equates to a $1.125 million per season charge against the Steelers cap.
Now, when you add the two aforementioned forthcoming charges together and subtract them from $7,909,984, you should come up with $6,223,384 and that is the amount the Steelers are currently projected to be under their adjusted cap number at the start of business Tuesday.
Now, keep in mind that the Steelers are projected to restructure the contract of center Maurkice Pouncey soon and that could clear up as much as $3.8 million in additional salary cap space if they choose to do the maximum amounts. In addition to that, once quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has his contract extended, that could clear up additional salary cap space depending on how it is structured. I still think that there’s a good chance that gets done prior to the start of the new league year, but we’ll see.
The Steelers still could decide to release defensive ends Brett Keisel and Cam Thomas and in doing so, that would clear another $3.5 million in additional cap space prior to displacement taking place in the Rule of 51. As of right now, the real cap savings would be $2.63 million and I have feeling that both Keisel and Thomas might be on the roster for the foreseeable future. We’ll see if they both make it to the start of the new league year next Tuesday and go from there.
As I posted Monday night, we will find out next week what the Steelers plans are for safety Troy Polamalu. If they release him on March 10 or 11, they will designate him a post June 1 release and that course of action would result in them carrying his full cap charge of $8.25 million until then. Once June 1 passes, they would clear another $6 million in salary cap space and some of that savings will be used to sign whatever top draft picks that have yet to sign. Polamalu could agree to a salary reduction as well, so keep that in the back of your mind. If you remember, former nose tackle Casey Hampton agreed to a salary reduction several years ago, but that was the final year of his contract. Polamalu, however, is under contract through 2016.
Now, I must remind you that the Steelers will still likely want to re-sign a few of their own free agents before the start of the new league year and the likely unrestricted candidates are linebacker Arthur Moats, cornerback Brice McCain and tight end Matt Spaeth. In addition to those three players, the Steelers might also want to sign their three restricted free agents to long-term deals instead of giving them all restricted Right of First Refusal tenders in the amount of $1.542 million. Those three players are cornerback Antwon Blake, fullback Will Johnson and safety Robert Golden, and I recently wrote about what the long-terms deals for all three might look like. As you can clearly see, there’s still some projected work that needs to be done between now and next Tuesday.
I’ve already talked about a possible extension for Roethlisberger and the same goes for defensive end Cameron Heyward, who is currently scheduled to earn $6.969 million in 2015. While contract extensions for players that don’t play quarterback for the Steelers normally happen after training camp gets underway, there’s a chance that the team might extend Heyward’s contract sooner to lower is 2015 number and thus clear additional cap space to spend during free agency. It’s going to happen before the start of the regular season, it’s just hard to speculate as to when.
Hopefully Roethlisberger’s extension gets done soon so the team can have additional money to spend in free agency. If it doesn’t, the only way that the team can clear additional cap space would involve restructuring the contract of wide receiver Antonio Brown in addition to Pouncey’s, but I don’t think it will come to that.
If indeed Pouncey’s restructure is done this week, the Steelers should be roughly $10 million under their adjusted salary cap number at the start of the new league year and that should be enough to sign not only their own free agents, but a few others in addition.
|Steelers 2015 Projected Salary Cap Numbers
As Of 3/3/2015
|Players Under Contract|
|Player||Base Salary||Cap Charge|
|Mitchell Van Dyk||$435,000||$435,000|
|Total 59 Players Under Contract||$86,586,432||$129,881,742
|Total 16 Players Dead Money||$9,746,743|
|Total Rule Of 51 Number||$136,148,485|
|2015 Salary Cap||$143,280,000|
|Rule Of 51 Under Cap||$7,131,515|
|2014 Cap Rollover Credit||$778,469|
|Workout Bonus Charge||$561,600|
|Veteran Cap Credit Payback Charge||$1,125,000|
|Total Projected Cap Space Available||$6,223,384|