The 2012 NFL combine has come and gone and now the next key date on the 2012 NFL calendar for the Pittsburgh Steelers is March 5th, as that is the deadline for the restricted tenders and franchise tag to be issued.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told the media during his press conference at the combine that they were still waiting to hear what the official cap number will be for 2012, and that will dictate the moves that will need to be made to be cap compliant by March 13th. The team has already reportedly tendered Isaac Redman, Steve McLendon and Jeremy Kapinos, their three exclusive rights free agents, but have yet to tender any of their restricted free agents that include Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis, Doug Legursky, Ramon Foster, David Johnson, Ryan Mundy and Jamon Meredith. Meredith is the only one of that group that is not expected to be tendered.
The biggest name of course on the restricted list is Wallace, who said prior to the combine that the two sides had been talking about a new contract that would prevent him from being exposed to free agency. There has not been an update as to how those talks have gone, but Colbert made it clear at the combine that Wallace remains a top priority. Should a new deal not be reached by Monday, the Steelers must decide if they want to use a first round tender or the franchise tag on Wallace. There of course could be a new deal close and the Steelers are just waiting on confirmation of what the 2012 cap number is before pulling the trigger. This also explains the wait on the other restricted tenders as well.
Colbert and company should be back from Indianapolis by now and it figures that we will have a busy news week on the way, as he let it be known that a few more terminations would likely be forthcoming. With only the exclusive tenders being issued thus far and outstanding roster bonuses yet to be paid, the Steelers current Rule of 51 number sits at around $120.5 million. The latest rumblings are that the 2012 cap number will come in at $120 million, which is $5 million less than most have projected. Should that indeed be the number, the Steelers will have quite a bit of work to do to afford the displacement cost of the five expected original round tenders and either a first round tender, a franchise tag or first year cap hit of a new contract for Wallace.
The displacement cost alone on the original round tenders figures to be in the neighborhood of $4.35 million. That number is derived from the difference of a projected tender amount of $1.26 million minus the $390,000 base salary of the players whose spot they will take on the top 51 once tendered, times 5 players. Should Wallace not get a new contract by Monday, it is likely that he will only receive a first round tender that is projected to be $2.742 million. That would create a displacement increase of $2.352 million. All combined, assuming the above is true, the Steelers will need to accommodate roughly $6.7 million or in cap space. Of course that number could be roughly $6.658 million more than that should they decide to use the franchise tag on Wallace instead of a first round tender.
It is safe to say that nearly $7 million worth of cap space at the very minimum needs to be cleared by the 13th and the watch is now on for players like Hines Ward, Chris Kemoeatu, Jonathan Scott, James Farrior and Larry Foote, all of whom could likely either have their 2012 salaries cut or be cut themselves. In addition, if Aaron Smith were to decide to retire, one would think that announcement would come very soon. That would free up just over $2.1 million in cap space very quick.
February was a busy month for the Steelers as they trimmed over $29 million off their 2012 cap with 5 contract restructures and 2 terminations. The month of March is one day away now and so begins the final march towards getting cap compliant.