A month ago, I would have bet you a lot of money that the Pittsburgh Steelers would have restructured the contract of at least one player prior to April. However, so far, no such transaction has taken place. In fact, now that center Maurkice Pouncey and defensive end Cameron Heyward have both been paid their respective roster bonuses for the 2016 season, there’s a good a bet that their contracts will now be left alone barring any emergency needs as the Steelers can only clear a total of $3.847 million in salary cap space at this point should they restructure both players to the fullest amounts allowed.
Assuming the Steelers won’t want to restructure the contracts of safety Mike Mitchell and tackle Marcus Gilbert this year being as they did so with both last offseason, that leaves quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as the only likely candidate for a restructure the remainder of the offseason. Such a restructure with Roethlisberger, if done to the fullest amount, would clear $12,573,750 in salary cap space. However, I doubt they will have to go to that extreme when and if they even restructure his contract at all.
As we sit here in late March, the NFLPA currently has the Steelers at $2,629,520 under their adjusted salary cap number but do keep in mind that team still is expected to have charges forthcoming for offseason roster bonuses ($561,600) and a veteran cap credit payback payment ($1,125,000). Additionally, the Steelers still need to allocate roughly another $1.42 million in salary cap space in order to accommodate the signing of their currently scheduled seven draft picks in addition to roughly another $2.1 million in cap space in order to sign a 10-man practice squad and accommodate two final spots on their final 53-man roster. If that’s not enough, the team general likes to enter a regular season with $3 million in available salary cap space in order to handle in-season roster moves because of injuries.
If you were to add up everything outstanding that I listed above and subtract that from what they currently have in available space, you are left with a total of just a little more than $5.577 million in needed cap space.
Now, the Steelers could save as much as $5,186,667 against their 2016 salary cap should they sign linebacker Lawrence Timmons to a two-year extension with no new signing bonus money included. Such an extension would almost cover that cap deficit that they currently face. With that said, there’s no guarantee the Steelers and Timmons get such an extension done this offseason as we sit here today.
With guard David DeCastro due an extension this offseason after his fifth-year option was picked up last year, it’s easy to project that his currently scheduled cap charge in 2016 of $8.07 million will ultimately get decreased in the coming months. However, how much it will get decreased is still up for debate as it will all depend on what his new base salary in 2016 will be along with what the prorated portion of the signing bonus given to him will be. The most I can see the Steelers saving cap wise in 2016 with a DeCastro extension is around $3 million and such a cap savings would likely require the guard receiving a $10 million signing bonus and roughly another $3 million in 2016.
One also needs to be reminded that running back Le’Veon Bell might ultimately receive an extension this offseason and should that indeed wind up happening, his 2016 cap charge is sure to increase. Additionally, something is likely to be done with wide receiver Antonio Brown and his contract this offseason. While he might not receive an extension, the Steelers might decide to pay him a huge chunk of his 2017 base salary this year as a signing bonus and such a move would result in his 2016 cap charge increasing.
Also, the Steelers have a few players in cornerback Cortez Allen and Shaun Suisham who might not wind up making their final 53-man roster this year. Should both wind up being cut or traded after June 1, the Steelers will save a combined $6.8 million in salary cap space this year prior to roster displacement.
Needless to say, the Steelers still have quite a bit of meat left on their offseason bone and if they are able to devour it all without restructuring the contracts of Roethlisberger or others, they will certainly deserve a huge tip of the cap.