Contract Options The Steelers Have With Hines Ward

There is a lot of talk about Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward right now as it relates to whether or not he will be back with the Steelers in 2012. This is far from being played out just yet but I want to use this post to look at what the least amount the Steelers can pay Ward in 2012 from a salary cap perspective and that would likely end up satisfying both sides.

Ward currently is under contract for 2012 and 2013 and his non guaranteed base salary in each of those years is $4 million. Notice I said not guaranteed. He also still has signing bonus proration on the books for 2012 and 2013 of $610K in each of those years. So right now Ward is scheduled to count $4.61 million against the cap in 2012 and 2013. Should the Steelers terminate his contract prior to June 1st, that leftover signing bonus proration escalates into 2012. So basically he would cost the Steelers $1.22 million against the 2012 salary cap if his contract is terminated. That makes the cap savings in $3.39 million in 2012 for the Steelers.

Now they can cut his base salary all the way down to $925K, the 10-plus-year veteran minimum, but the 2012 salary cap proration amount of $610K still adds to that $925K base salary. That would make his 2012 salary cap hit $1.535 million. That is just a straight pay cut. Would Ward really take a $3.75 million cut in base salary to play another year and save the Steelers $3.075 million against the 2012 cap? Mark Kaboly reported on Twitter Saturday night that he heard that Ward is willing to take a $2 million pay cut to stay. If that indeed is the case, his 2012 cap number would be $2.61 instead of $4.61 and saves the Steelers $2 million against the 2012 cap. Once again a straight pay cut of his 2012 base salary.

What about a restructure? The only restructuring really that can be done is to turn base salary into signing bonus and stretch out the proration over 2012 and 2013, assuming they do not add another year on to the contract, which I cant see why they would. If they turned $2 million of his $4 million base salary into signing bonus, and did not add on any years to his contract, his 2012 cap hit would then be $3.610 million and his 2013 cap hit would become $5.61 million. Now we know 2012 pretty much would have to be his last year with the Steelers, so basically the restructure would create $1.61 million in dead money in 2013. Not a very smart thing to do to just save $1 million against the 2012 cap in my opinion, but at least Ward does not take a pay cut that way. They could restructure the 2012 base all the way down to $925K, but that only produces a 2012 cap savings of $1.5375 million and makes dead money hit of $2.1475 million in 2013.

What about releasing him and signing him back to a qualifying contract like Mike Florio suggest? Once again his base salary would be $925K and although only $540K of that amount would count against the cap, you have to remember that the $1.22 million I mentioned above would then be on the 2012 books as a dead money cap hit next to the name of Ward. So basically Ward would still cost $1.76 million against the cap in 2012. That saves the Steelers $2.85 million on Ward versus what he was scheduled to count in 2012. This also assumes he does not get any signing bonus on that qualifying contract, the maximum of which I believe is $65K on a qualifying contract in 2012. All of the signing bonus tacks onto the cap hit as well.

Those are really the only options the Steelers have with Ward contract wise. If the Steelers do end up wanting him back in 2012, I see the $2 million pay cut as the only option to appease both sides. This saves the Steelers $2 million against the 2012 cap and satisfies the reported $2 million pay cut that ward is willing to take according to Kaboly.

  • Joe D

    A backup WR is not worth $2million… (the salary).
    I would keep in for $1million… but what about next year???
    He is worth $0 for next year.
    That is why cut and resign to a 1 year may make the most sense.
    Charlie Batch as a backup gets under $1million… if Ward wants to stay, he will need to swallow some pride and ego and only take what Steelers are offering.

  • Dave

    Looking at the numbers above – Even if the Steelers cut him today, he will still count $1.22 mil against the cap in ‘dead money’. The Steelers can’t get his cap hit down to 0 for 2012 no matter what they do. So, some of the options above where we can bring him back for a maybe $1.535mil or $1.76mil or maybe up to $2mil make a lot of sense to me. If you look at it that way, you can bring him back for $300K to $700K, which seems fair to me.

    I think Ward also has to realize that no other team will offer him $2 or $3 million for 2012.

  • NW86

    If I were the Steelers, I would offer this:
    -Cut base salary from $4M to $1M
    -Add $1M signing bonus.
    -This way Hines takes a $2M cut, but the Steelers are saving $2.5M in cap room, with the other $.5M pushed to 2013.

  • I love Ward but he no longer has any on the field value to the team. I would rather hire him as a coach then pretend he’s a player. Against my better judgement I would probably give him a minimum salary deal, but why? He won’t play and a championship team can’t afford to carry players it doesn’t need and won’t use even if an injury occurs. He doesn’t need the money. I wish we could be sentimental but in a salary cap era we can’t. If we are going to waste money lets waste it on Steelers that haven’t made 10’s of millions and really need the money. The bottom line is he got the respect millions last year when he did nothing. Doing it this year is just stupid for both parties.

  • BoomDizzle

    Having Ward on the field is like having an H-back. He has no downfield speed whatsoever. You can cover him with a linebacker. Cut him loose and try to resign Cotchery. Cotchery offers much more as a receiver.

  • Joe D

    If you cut Ward, 1.2 million CAP hit for 2012…
    If he takes paycut to 1million… and retires end of 2012… that would mean 1.6 million 2012 CAP hit and 600K 2013 CAP hit.
    He is not worth $2million… or 2.6 million 2012 CAP hit… need the extra 1 million to sign Wallace, etc. plus 600K CAP hit for 2013 would still remain.

    Steelers have CAP issues in 2013 also with all this shifting of salary to future years…. woodley, timmons, etc.

    Question… if Ward retires… is that a 1.2 million CAP hit for 2012 or 600K for each year of 2012 & 2013?

  • Jollyrob68

    Just pay him 1-2 mil to retire and bow out gracefully.

  • Tennbob9

    Cotchery is not going to re-sign. He wants to start and he is behind Wallace, Brown & Sanders. Also He will get better money elsewhere than the Steelers can give him as a number 4 receiver.

  • Huskie

    What does he cost us next year if he retires? Does a team owe a player any money if he retires? Because if so why not offer the guy a 2.5-3 mil pay cut with the understanding he retires as a steeler after this season. Ward is a stand up guy and just wants one last shot at another ring. He retires after this season and, if its gonna cost us close to the same amount whether we cut him or bring his salary way down, as a steeler’s fan I want him to retire as a steeler