Fitting Mike Wallace Under The Steelers 2012 Salary Cap While Wearing Franchise Tag

Since my last post on Mike Wallace, as it relates to trying to protect him via free agency, I have had a few questions about how the Steelers can possibly fit Wallace underneath the cap by the start of the new league year if they indeed were to place the franchise tag of $9.4 million on him.

Let\’s assume that the Steelers tender all of their other restricted free agents and exclusive free agents except for Jamon Meredith at the lowest levels, which I fully expect they will do, and assume they give Wallace the franchise tag that is estimated to be about $9.4 million. With the current players under contract, the Rule of 51 number would be in the neighborhood of around $144.5 million or roughly $20 million over the cap. You can clearly see that several cuts and restructures still need to be done.

Let\’s start with Aaron Smith, who I fully expect will retire. That will save $2.109 million right there. The next easy move would be to restructure the contracts of both Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison, that I outlined after both of their agents said this past week that their clients are willing to restructure. Using those numbers in my example it would save another $6.57667 million against the cap. Thus far we have trimmed $8.68567 million, nearly the price of the franchise tag itself, but we are still roughly $11.4 million over the cap.

Releasing Chris Kemoeatu would save a little less than $3.827 million because his salary would need to be replaced by another minimum salary in the top 51. Jonathan Scott is also a very likely casualty that could be brought back later if needed at a much cheaper price. That would save $2.2 million minus the cost of the replacement of another minimum salary in the top 51. As much as it may hurt them to do it, Hines Ward would save another $4 million against the cap minus another minimum salary in the top 51.

When you run all of the restructures and contract terminations I have above, that puts the new Rule of 51 at around $129.4 million or still roughly $5-6 million over the cap. Will Allen should easily be a salary cap casualty who can be resigned much later at a cheaper price if needed. The other tough cut could be the injured Casey Hampton, as it is a good possibility that he could start the season on the PUP list. Releasing both Hampton and Allen would save almost another $6 million when you add on the two players salaries that would fill in on the top 51. That brings the Rule of 51 number to about a little over $123 million, which should be right about where they need to be.

So basically to recap, we have franchised Wallace, tendered all of the restricted free agents and exclusive free agents except for Meredith at the low levels and restructured Roethlisberger and Harrison. Smith retires and terminated the contracts of Hampton, Kemoeatu, Ward, Scott and Allen.

Now of course if Wallace is only given a first round tender instead of the franchise tag, that frees up $6.658 million, which could save the spot of Hampton or either Ward and Allen combined. This assumes that the restructures of both Roethlisberger and Harrison are done at the amounts I speculated earlier.

Wallace can certainly be fit under the cap with the franchise tag and it would buy the Steelers time to get a long term deal worked out with him to lower his 2012 cap hit. Kemoeatu, Hampton, Ward, Scott and Allen could all be signed back later on in the process to much cheaper contracts, should the Steelers choose to do that.

  • Grw1960

    Since Woodly , Timmons and Taylor has redone their 2012 salaries.
    I believe TE Miller is the 5th highest salary maybe they should redo his.

  • kysteeler

    Good write up here, a lot of people were starting to question if the Franchise Tag was possible. Hopefully they can get him signed and push most of the cap hit to that 2014 season. Miller looks to be pretty high up on the cap hit, good things Haley has a man-crush on him.

  • Mike O’

    It seems that everyone at Steeler Depot raves about what a ‘genius’ and ‘great job’ Omar Kahn has done with keeping the Steelers under the CAP for the last several years. In fact, it is quite the opposite. If he is such a genius, why are we in so over the CAP in the first place? If you check the “NFL Football Now” article link below, there are only 4 teams (out of 32) that are over the 2012 CAP:Giants; Panthers; Raiders & Steelers. The Steelers are in the worst shape of the four for 2012 (i.e we are No.1!).

    Note that both Baltimore and Cincinnati are in excellent 2012 CAP shape to sign Mike Wallace away from the Steelers for nothing but a mid-1st round Darft choice! Thanks for nothing, Omar!

    Mike O’

  • Mancoljduf11

    The steelers have to use the franchise tag because it is easier than most are making out to be and i would take wallace over ward, kemoeatu, farrior, allen, foote,smith, hampton,starks and scott combined

  • KingJames92

    “trying to protect mike wallace via free agency”

    Via does not mean “from”, it means “by way of” or “through the means of”.

    The Steelers are not using free agency as a means to protect Mike Wallace.

  • You ask a good question. The NFL salary cap had been increasing every year, and reached $128 million for the 2009 season. 2010 was a uncapped year, so teams were able to spend what ever they wanted. Then comes 2011, where instead of going up from the $128 million in 2009, the salary cap went to to $120 million in 2011. For 2012, the cap is in estimated to be around $125 million.

    So, to answer your question, the reason that the Steelers, among others, are having issues getting under the cap, is because many teams were working under the assumption that the salary cap would continue to increase, just like it had all the way up through 2009, when handing out contracts.

  • James

    I read somewhere earlier that if a player is franchised his cap hit would be more than the franchised amount?

    So for instance if Wallace is franchised his salary cap hit would be more than the $9.4mil franchise tag.

    Can anybody confirm if this is true? And if so how much would it be?

  • SteelersDepot
  • James

    Yeah I think I just misread an article on when i was hung over!

  • The Steelers also have more depth than most teams, and more aging vets, both of those things cost money, and the fact that Khan has kept them together this long, and should be able to keep the core together until the cap jumps up with the next TV contract, IS a great job.

  • So I have yet to see a single scenario that has us franchising Wallace and not cutting at least one of Mendenhall/Hampton. Interesting choice there.

  • Mike O’

    You stated ” the reason that the Steelers, among others, are having issues getting under the cap, is because many teams were working under the assumption that the salary cap would continue to increase…”
    The problem is the “among others” and “many teams” in your quote were only 4 of the 32 teams with 2012 CAP trouble(i.e. Steelers, Giants, Panthers & Raiders. At least the Giants have a Super Bowl win to show for it. Dave has a good article today on the Steelers gambling in 2010 that led to this mess.

  • Mike O’

    You seem to be agreeing with the conclusion in Dave’s article today that the Steeler’s taking a chance in 2010 with their signings was worth it. The jury is still out on this! We will have to wait to see how the team performs the next two years with the talent they can afford before the expected big increase in the CAP takes place from the TV contracts you mention.

  • You are correct, but they have most of their core locked up for that period outside of the WRs. I think they’ll be fine.

  • The gamble was 90 seconds away from securing another SB ring. It’s not so doom and gloom as you portray.

  • PoKey21

    The Steelers have always been able to part ways with their vets and make it work. ex) Fanneca and Porter. They will be ok letting Hampton go. A plug in the middle, while important, is not as important as it was in today’s passing NFL. Ward too, he has done a great service, but we are pretty well stocked in the WR pool.(And if you think Ward is tough, it will be even tougher will Troy in a few years). But that is the game of the NFL we need to stay relevant and stockpile young talent to maintain our consistency. Consistency is what Steelers fans pride themselves on. I am all for drafting a young QB this draft or next in the late rounds to start grooming him as Bens replacement in 4 years. Gotta stay Consistent.

  • Deanerwc

    I like your use of the word “raves” Go Ravens!