It was, in truth, only a matter of time before it would happen, but it occurred quite late in the proceedings in comparison to what might have been expected. Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Steelers were revealed to have restructured the contract of starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert in order to clear up some dwindling space against the salary cap.
As Dave Bryan covered yesterday when the news first became apparent through the NFLPA’s updated list of salary cap space, Gilbert had his 2016 base salary reduced to the minimum allowed for a veteran of his accrued tenure and turned into a signing bonus that would spread out over the remaining years on the contract.
The bookkeeping move cleared about $2.4 million in salary cap space, which left the team with roughly $5.2 million in salary cap space. But today they took things a step further by restructuring the contract of safety Mike Mitchell as well. Now with the new three-year contract signed by Vince Williams just a couple of days back, the Steelers have a bit over $7 in cap space.
The Steelers had only about $2.8 million in salary cap space heading into things prior to Williams’ deal and the pair of restructures, making it fairly clear that there was bound to be a cap-clearing move pending at some point before we reached the regular season, because there was no way the team would enter the year with so little space to work with.
Even with a bit of savings earned through a long-term extension for David DeCastro, which will likely not provide as much relief as many speculated, there is still the matter of the fact that the preseason salary cap only pertains to the salaries of the top 51 players.
There is still to be accounted for the 52nd and 53rd players on the roster, a full 10-player practice squad, as well as any player who remains on the injured reserve list entering the season. Those are the predictable expenses, and will take on well over $1 million, perhaps more than $2 million, to address on its own.
There is also the matter of acquiring a salary cap buffer of at least a couple million that is to be held in reserve, and ideally not used, for any in-season emergencies that might come up, as players inevitably get injured and need replacements to be signed. If they are moved to injured reserve, or are already vested veterans, that requires the paying of both salaries.
I wrote way back in April leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft that we should anticipate that some restructure would eventually take place, and that was even considering and anticipating the release of several veteran players since then. My position was clear—the Steelers didn’t have enough options to make it into the regular season without making a cap-saving move via restructure or extension.
And do we finally got it yesterday, and then again today, clearing im truth a bit more than necessary. This might hint as some further ambition, such as the addition of a low-level free agent tight end or cornerback, or, more likely, forwarding money to Antonio Brown to appease him.