I have been asked quite a bit why the Steelers have not re-signed Flozell Adams back after right tackle Willie Colon was lost for the season this past Sunday and the simple answer is there just is not enough cap room to meet his likely salary demands. I finally cleared up my 2011 salary cap numbers following the final cutdowns and prior to the new contract signed by Troy Polamalu, the Steelers were roughly $2.23 million under the cap. The new official contract numbers have yet to surface, but it figures it would only slightly increase or decrease his original 2011 cap hit of $8.595 million.
The Steelers reportedly reached out to Adams after the Sunday game, but no deal was imminent likely because of his demands. Adams was released shortly after the Steelers reported to training camp this year as he was set to earn $5 million this year. They likely asked Adams to take a pay cut or add another cheap year to his contract, but he likely declined.
The Steelers have nearly $3 million worth of dead money this year after the release of Max Starks, Antwaan Randle El, Limas Sweed, Crezdon Butler and the other free agents, draft pick and undrafted free agents that had signing bonuses. Thanks to the Colon injury, he now joins Byron Leftwich and Baron Batch on injured reserve where they combine to cost the Steelers over $5 million in cap space. Yes these players still count against the cap even though they are on IR.
As far as clearing cap room right now, they can not release players with 4 or more accrued season like Aaron Smith because their contracts are now fully guaranteed after week 1 of the season. They still would be on the hook for the $6.1 he counts against the cap. The only players they economically release would be the ones at the bottom end of the roster with less than 4 years accrued. If those players have signing bonuses attached, that would add onto the dead money for this year. That boils down to players like Steve McLendon and Ramon Foster as realistic cuts, but they just do not save you any real money to do so.
The other option would be to go to a few players and try to restructure their 2011 base, but you will be pushing even more money off to future years and setting up an even bigger cap hell. Not that it is not manageable to do that and worry about it later though and should yet another injury happen; they might not have any other choice to do so.
Also if you look at the risk involved in signing a 36 year old tackle that missed quite a few snaps last year like Adams did, you can see that by meeting his high contract demands you are putting all of your eggs in one basket that he will not go down with an injury.
What about re-signing Starks you ask? He already counts $2 of the $3 million in dead money this year and has another $2 million left in dead money that will hit the cap next year. That money is long gong as part of his signing bonus paid him on his last contract. The $4 million is just for accounting purposes as he has long since been paid that. Thus the dead money term. There is no way to tie that into another contract to my knowledge. He must have really been out of shape and unhealthy for them to eat that type of money, so bringing him back now is highly unlikely unless he is the player he was prior to the injury last year and he would have to play for damn near the minimum.
Judging by the looks of Smith in week 1 against the Ravens, you can see that this one decision to keep him and his $6.1 million cap charge might be one of the biggest gaffs that Kevin Colbert has made in some time. Had they released Smith prior to week 1 he would have only cost $1.6 in dead money this year, a savings of $4.5 million. There is your money needed to re-sign The Hotel for a season or another higher profile tackle.
The Steelers have chosen to sign a former student of Sean Kugler, Jamon Meredith, after placing Colon on IR. His salary is not guaranteed and there was no signing bonus included in his minimum contract. If he does not work out the Steelers can just release him and replace with yet another street bum until they find one to their liking.
As of right now there is no vacancy in Steelers hotel for Adams.