What will the contract of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger look like by the time March 17 rolls around? While it’s hard to say for sure, it’s a good bet that Roethlisberger will still get the $19 million he’s scheduled to earn in 2021 with most of it, $17.925 million to be exact, being turned into a signing bonus. If that’s the case, the only thing left to find out is the length that Roethlisberger’s contract was extended and what, if any, voidable rules were included. Those voidable rules, should there be any, will be interesting to see.
If you believe the report last week from Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers plan is to extend Roethlisberger’s contract by two years. Additionally, Dulac reports that $17.925 million of the $19 million that Roethlisberger is due in 2021 will be turned into a signing bonus and then prorated over the three total years, 2021-2023. Assuming that’s what happens, Roethlisberger’s 2021 salary cap charge would decrease by $11.95 million and go from $41.25 million down to $29.3 million. See the example layout below.
The Steelers could obviously extend Roethlisberger four years under this same scenario and in doing so, that would clear $14.34 million in 2021 salary cap space. Basically, it all depends on how long the two sides agree to extend the contract and how much 2021 salary cap space the Steelers want to save, assuming Roethlisberger still gets all $19 million that he’s currently scheduled to make.
So, what about all that hullabaloo about voidable years and does it really matter? Maybe.
For starters, should Roethlisberger’s contract automatically void after the 2021 season ends, whatever remaining proration is still on the books at that time would all accelerate to the 2022 season. In the case of Roethlisberger getting a two-year extension in the coming weeks that would reduce his 2021 cap charge by $11.95 million, another $11.95 million would be dead money in 2022 should Roethlisberger’s contract automatically void after the 2021 season ends.
If the Steelers are fine with that large dead money hit of $11.95 million in 2022, it’s not a big deal. However, if they would like a chance to reduce it and split it up over two years, 2022 and 2023, perhaps they could convince Roethlisberger to not insist on the 2022 contract year voiding right away. In doing that, it would at least technically leave open the possibility of Roethlisberger playing in 2022 as well.
Should, the obvious path come to fruition for Roethlisberger, which means 2021 would be his final NFL season, the Steelers might could get the veteran quarterback to take the same path next offseason that New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees took this offseason to help the team out. In short, Brees was originally set to make $25 million in 2021 but agreed to lower his base salary down to the minimum amount of $1.075 million so that the saints could get substantial cap relief prior to the start of the new league year on March 17.
Did the Brees salary reduction matter in the grand scheme of things? Sure, it should. With Brees taking a pay cut from $25 million to $1.075 million, the saints instantly cleared $23.925 million in 2021 salary cap space. It also means the Saints can now afford to keep Brees under contract through June 1. On June 2, they can place Brees on the Reserve/Retired list and at that point, his prorated bonus amounts in 2022 and 2023 that total $11.5 million won’t escalate into 2021. Instead, the remaining prorated bonus amounts escalate into 2022 as a dead money charge of $11.5 million. In short, after June 1, Brees will count just $11.15 million in dead money against the Saints 2021 cap instead of $22.65 million. Then, the remaining $11.5 million can be eaten by the saints as dead money in 2022.
In Roethlisberger’s case if his 2022 offseason plays out like Brees’ did this year, the Steelers would have a $5,975 million dead charge next year if the quarterback can be retained past June 1. When Roethlisberger is placed on the Reserve/Retired list after June 1, another $5.975 million would become dead for the 2023 season. Obviously, whatever Roethlisberger’s 2022 salary winds up being set at as part of this upcoming extension he’s about to agree to, could be dropped to the minimum a year from now if both sides agree that the quarterback is done playing.
So, why technically go this route? Basically, it would allow the Steelers to not take the full brunt of dead money in 2022 should 2021 wind up being Roethlisberger’s final season. It’s one aspect of the forthcoming contract manipulation that’s worth paying attention to once the details of it finally surface.