It has been quite a day for Steeler Nation. This morning came the announcement that linebacker James Harrison will be lost for several weeks with a right orbital fracture and tonight it got even more interesting as there is a report out now that Max Starks visited with the Steelers this evening and could be re-signed to the 53 man roster as early as tomorrow.
Gerry Dulac reports tonight that if Starks is indeed re-signed it would be for depth purposes and that he is not being brought in to be an immediate starter. That may indeed be true, but it also could be that he needs a week or two to get up to speed. Remember that Starks has lost quite a bit of weight since his release and has not played a down of football this season. No training camp, no nothing. Only a visit to the Vikings. It would be hard to expect him to be signed on a Wednesday and start on a Sunday in my opinion. Not impossible mind you. Hell, I am even surprised they brought him in for a visit as there have been rumblings that a few on the coaching staff are not big fans of his.
Should he indeed re-sign, what side will he play? Starks was originally a right tackle with the Steelers and moved to left tackle after Marvel Smith went down several years ago. The Steelers drafted Marcus Gilbert this past offseason as the likely heir to the left tackle throne, but Gilbert was forced into the starting right tackle spot after Willie Colon went down back in week 1. Many forget that most of the preseason snaps Gilbert had came at left tackle and he made significant progress there. It all might ultimately depend on how Jonathan Scott performs going forward as he tries to return this week from his high ankle sprain. It could also depend on what type of shape Starks is in as well. Something to think about, but at least Starks has position flexibility to play on either side.
So who gets released if Starks re-signs? Likely the last man in the door with a non-guaranteed salary and that would likely be tackle Jamon Meredith. Meredith was signed to the minimum after Colon went down and he can be released without any salary cap implications as there was likely no signing bonus with him and he was signed after week 1. He would be my best guess.
So how much will Starks cost the Steelers? First off you have to remember that the Steelers had $4 million left on the books with Starks in the form of dead money when they released him. That $4 million is the remainder of the amortized signing bonus money that Starks received back when he got his last deal. Signing bonuses are paid to a player when they sign the contract, but the teams are allowed to stretch that money out over 5 years cap wise. Being as Starks was a post June 1st cut, the Steelers are allowed to account for that money cap wise over 2 years. Had Starks been cut prior to Junes 1st in a non-lockout year, that $4 million would have had to be charged against the 2011 cap. Instead Starks counts $2 million this year against the cap and $2 million against the cap in 2012. That money is gone, thus the dead money term. A new contract has no bearing on that. As far as a new contract goes, Starks may or may not agree to a one-year deal for the minimum of $810K per his accrued years with a maximum signing bonus of $50K. If that happens Starks should only cost $575K more against the cap, because of the discount teams get against the cap for signing veteran players to one year deals. If this ends up being the case, Starks would essentially cost the Steelers $2.575K against the cap this season. Dead money plus new money.
We should know in a matter of hours if the reports are true and if he indeed has been re-signed. What a crazy day.