The Pittsburgh Steelers signed inside linebacker Vince Williams to a new contract on Tuesday that will reportedly keep him in the fold through the 2018 season. While the financials related Williams’ new contract have yet to surface, they will very soon and those numbers might wind up being lower than many, including myself, initially expected.
Since Williams signed his new deal on Tuesday, we have hit you with a lot of content focusing on what this latest contract means to the future of veteran inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons and this morning I’m going to hit you with one more post on the subject.
I will first come clean and tell you that I am a bit of a Timmons fanboy. If you have followed his career closely, it’s really hard not to be even if you try to look at it very objectively and acknowledge his faults.
Yes, Timmons is now 30 years of age and he’s entering the final year of his current contract. While he is set to have a salary cap charge of $15,131,250 in 2016, you can’t hate him for that as that is a result of him helping the team out a few times over the years by restructuring his contract. The fact of that matter is that Timmons is set to earn $8.75 million in 2016. Is that amount too high for a player who could quite possibly see a significant decrease in playing time in 2016 for the first time in his career because of defensive scheme needs? Sure, I will listen to that argument if that’s the way you feel.
For all we know, Timmons might want to retire after the 2016 and no one could blame him if he does. After all, he’s had a long and prosperous NFL career and currently owns a Super Bowl ring with the chance of getting another one in 2016. However, let’s go ahead and assume that Timmons has no current plans to retire and is considering playing at least two more seasons past this upcoming one. What are his options if that’s indeed the case?
For starters, he really wants to end his career right where it started in Pittsburgh and thus probably wants to do so without having to go through the uncertainty of the unrestricted free agent process after the 2016 season is over. In order to avoid that, he would need to sign a team-friendly contract extension in the next few weeks. Now, if Timmons wants a sizeable signing bonus as part of a new extension, that’s very unlikely to happen as it wouldn’t help the Steelers out this year very much from a salary cap perspective. Assuming Timmons and his agent both know that, and it’s hard to think they don’t, Timmons would need to sign an extension with no new signing bonus money and essentially let the Steelers turn a good portion of the $8.75 million he’s scheduled to earn this season into a signing bonus. At that point, all that needs to be worked out is the base salaries the linebacker could possibly earn in 2017 and 2018 and how much of each is guaranteed.
Timmons could gamble that another team will be willing to pay him over $5 million in guaranteed money in 2017, but why take that risk if he can possibly get $5 million from the Steelers instead as long as he remains healthy and productive in 2016? Even if the example of $5 million in 2017 isn’t fully guaranteed, he’s almost certain to get that money barring a huge drop-off in play or a significant injury.
Let’s say the Steelers pay Timmons $5.75 million of the $8.75 million due him this year as a signing bonus and add two years onto his contract at $5 million per season. Such an extension would result in Timmons’ cap charge in 2016 dropping by $3,833,333.34. His cap charges in 2017 and 2018 would each be $6,916,666.66 and the potential future dead money at that point would be $3,833,333 if he needed to be cut after the 2016 season for whatever reason.
Now, if the Steelers firmly believe that Williams can take over Timmons’ starting spot in 2017 without any drop-off in play whatsoever, then it certainly makes zero sense to extend the longtime veteran and former first-round draft pick. If, however, the Steelers only view Williams as a future spot starter and special teams contributor, then it would make sense to lock up Timmons for another two seasons.
Undoubtedly, it’s very reasonable for fans to think that the writing is now on the wall for Timmons as it relates to his future in Pittsburgh past the 2016 season now that Williams has been signed a new deal. However, being as I am admittedly a Timmons fanboy, I’m still going to hold out a small glimmer of hope that the Steelers and Timmons will work out some sort of an extension between now and the start of the 2016 regular season. If that doesn’t happen, and admittedly there’s a good chance it won’t, perhaps Timmons will decide to sign a very cheap one or two-year deal with the Steelers next offseason and still avoid the free agency process in the process.
Personally, I’m not ready to throw Timmons out with the bathwater just yet as I feel he still has a few good years left in him. We’ll see in the next few weeks if the Steelers feel the same way.