Steelers 2016 Salary Cap: A Bye Week Look Ahead

Being as the Pittsburgh Steelers are currently on their bye this week, now is a perfect time to take a quick look ahead at what the team’s early 2016 salary cap picture will look like during the offseason.

As you can see in the table below, the Steelers currently have 40 players under contract for the 2016 season. With that noted, 11 placeholders need to be created for the first round of offseason future signings in order to get to the projected Rule of 51 offseason roster salary cap total. After filling those spots with first-year base salaries, the 51 spots now total out at an estimated $149,112,297.

Additionally, the Steelers are on pace to rollover roughly $4 million in 2015 leftover salary cap space to 2016, so when you factor in those numbers, the dead money currently on the books for 2016, along with the widely 2016 projected league salary cap amount of $150,000,000, the organization should be roughly $4.1 million under the cap by February 15 based on all of my estimations.

While being under the projected salary cap by $4.1 million is certainly better than being over it, the Steelers, as usual, will have quite a bit of offseason business to tend to being as they will be up against the number. I have laid out quite a bit of that business for you below and have focused on five key areas.

March Cap Casualty Candidates:

Jacoby Jones – Jones and his $3 million salary that’s due him in 2016 certainly sticks out like a sore thumb and if he manages to make it through the remainder of the 2015 season, he won’t make it through March as he is merely a rental player this year. That’s an instant $3 million in cap space freed up prior to the roster displacement.

Restructure Candidates:

Ben Roethlisberger – The Bank of Ben is set to reopen during the offseason and I suspect the Steelers will be withdrawing from it as it relates to a restructure in order to free up some cap space. Just how much of Roethlisberger’s 2016 base salary will be turned into a signing bonus we don’t yet know, but I will be surprised if that number is more than $12 million.

Cameron Heyward – Being as Heyward has a new long-term deal in place, he figures to be a restructure candidate over the course of the next few seasons. In addition to the $3 million base Heyward is scheduled to earn in 2016, he’s also due a $5 million roster bonus in early March. In other words, expect a restructure to happen before that is due as he will be paid that amount and likely $2 million of his base as a signing bonus. If done that way, the team will clear $5.6 million in cap space in 2016.

Maurkice Pouncey – Like Heyward, Pouncey is also due a roster bonus in March and thus he is a legitimate candidate to be restructured early on in the offseason.

Mike Mitchell – If push comes to shove, Mitchell can be gone to for another restructure in order to free up cap space. Let’s hope they don’t have to dig that far. They did this past offseason, however.

Marcus Gilbert – Ditto with Gilbert. As with Mitchell, the Steelers also had to restructure Gilbert this past offseason. We are merely listing him as a candidate this year just in case.

Extension Candidates:

David DeCastro – Thanks to his fifth-year option being picked up prior to the start of the 2015 season, DeCastro is set to earn $8.07 million in 2016. Barring an injury, a long-term deal is imminent at this point for DeCastro and it’s really only a matter of when. It’s unlikely to happen before June, so we’ll have plenty of time to take a shot at what that deal will look like, but there’s a good bet it will average between $8-9 million a year in new money. The extension should also considerably lower DeCastro’s 2016 cap charge by at least half.

Lawrence Timmons – Timmons is likely to have his contract extended during the offseason as the Steelers will certainly need to lower his $15,131,250 scheduled cap charge. Nearly $6.5 million of that cap charge is bonus amortization, so that’s not going anywhere. When the ink dries, I expect Timmons’s new deal to clear between $3-4 million in cap space in 2016. If, however, Timmons winds up being released, the team will clear $8.75 million. Personally, I don’t think it will come to that.

Le’Veon Bell – While Bell is certainly a candidate to get an extension, I don’t have a good feel as to whether or not one gets done during the offseason because of his latest injury. If they are able to lock him up long-term at a price that is fair for both parties, such a deal isn’t likely to take place until after the team reports to training camp. An extension would also result in his 2016 cap charge going up quite considerably. Should the Steelers not sign him to an extension during the offseason, they would have to use the franchise or transition tag on him after the 2016 season if they want to keep him in Pittsburgh.

Antonio Brown – Brown is certainly due a considerable raise but if we are to believe general manager Kevin Colbert, he won’t get a contract extension until after the 2016 season. As I pointed out recently, the Steelers can rob his 2017 money in order to pay him more in 2016 but such a move would result in his 2016 cap charge going up. An extension, however, would undoubtedly lower his 2016 cap charge some.

Landry Jones – Yes, Jones is an extension candidate and I can’t believe I’m actually typing that. With that said, it might be wise for him to wait until after the 2016 season as the Steelers aren’t likely to blow his doors off with a deal. His market value has increased this season.

Elephant In The Room Candidates:

Cortez Allen – The Steelers could cut Allen by the time the new league year starts and save $1.7 million in cap space with that move prior to displacement in the top 51. They could also let him go just after the start of the new league year and designate him a post June 1 cut and save $4.4 million in cap space once that date arrives. While both options have to be considered, I think Allen might just be kept around, assuming he can pass a physical. He can always be cut after June 1 if need be and especially if he can’t win a starting job in training camp.

James Harrison – Harrison could decide to retire during the offseason or the Steelers might decide to retire him. If either happens, the Steelers will clear $1.25 million in cap space prior to roster displacement.

Shaun Suisham – Suisham won’t be going anywhere initially, but he will have to beat out Chris Boswell during training camp. If he can’t do that, the Steelers will free up $2.4 million in salary cap space just prior to the start of the 2016 season. That’s enough cap space to accommodate the 52nd and 53rd platers on the roster along with the 10-man practice squad.

Unrestricted Free Agent Re-signing Candidates:

I’ve already written about the full list of unrestricted free agent candidates a few days ago and while not all of them will be re-signed, several will. Personally, I think these players should be at the top of the list and there should be enough cap room for all of their first-year charges. William Gay, Kelvin Beachum, Steve McLendon, Ramon Foster, Greg Warren, Robert Golden, Sean Spence, Antwon Blake and Jordan Todman.

Over the course of the next several weeks, I’ll break down the Steelers 2016 salary cap situation by position group and that will include all of the scheduled free agents. I’ll also be throwing out some contract extension projections as well, so be on the lookout for that.

Steelers 2016 Salary Cap Situation (11/21/15)

Ben Roethlisberger QB $17,750,000 $23,950,000
Lawrence Timmons ILB $8,750,000 $15,131,250
Antonio Brown WR $6,250,000 $12,370,833
Maurkice Pouncey C $3,500,000 $10,551,000
Cameron Heyward DE $3,000,000 $10,400,000
David DeCastro G $8,070,000 $8,070,000
Heath Miller TE $4,000,000 $7,181,668
Mike Mitchell S $5,000,000 $6,763,750
Marcus Gilbert T $3,950,000 $6,461,000
Cortez Allen CB $4,400,000 $5,750,000
Shaun Suisham K $2,400,000 $3,503,000
Arthur Moats OLB $2,500,000 $3,133,333
Jacoby Jones WR $3,000,000 $3,000,000
Jarvis Jones OLB $1,592,115 $2,769,933
Ryan Shazier ILB $1,284,292 $2,592,874
DeAngelo Williams RB $2,000,000 $2,565,000
Bud Dupree OLB $854,195 $2,095,974
James Harrison OLB $1,250,000 $1,500,000
Cody Wallace C $1,200,000 $1,350,000
Le’Veon Bell RB $966,900 $1,311,100
Stephon Tuitt DE $839,040 $1,257,121
Matt Spaeth TE $1,000,000 $1,137,500
Senquez Golson CB $616,866 $909,328
Markus Wheaton WR $695,000 $842,844
Shamarko Thomas S $675,000 $788,288
Landry Jones QB $675,000 $784,805
Martavis Bryant WR $600,000 $709,805
Vince Williams ILB $675,000 $694,670
Sammie Coates WR $525,000 $682,879
Jordan Zumwalt ILB $600,000 $626,213
Daniel McCullers NT $600,000 $619,670
Jesse James TE $525,000 $577,228
Leterrius Walton DE $525,000 $554,232
Alejandro Villanueva T $525,000 $525,000
Jordan Berry P $525,000 $525,000
Anthony Chickillo OLB $525,000 $525,000
Doran Grant CB $525,000 $525,000
Chris Boswell K $525,000 $525,000
Eli Rogers WR $450,000 $451,666
Micah Hatchie T $450,000 $450,333
Future Player ? $450,000 $450,000
Future Player ? $450,000 $450,000
Future Player ? $450,000 $450,000
Future Player ? $450,000 $450,000
Future Player ? $450,000 $450,000
Future Player ? $450,000 $450,000
Future Player ? $450,000 $450,000
Future Player ? $450,000 $450,000
Future Player ? $450,000 $450,000
Future Player ? $450,000 $450,000
Future Player ? $450,000 $450,000
UNDER CONTRACT * $98,743,408 $149,112,297
DEAD MONEY * * 765,188
PROJECTED 2016 SALARY CAP * * $150,000,000
PROJECTED UNDER CAP * * $4,122,515
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