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.