Examining The 2013 Flat Cap Projection As It Relates To The Steelers

Michael Lombardi wrote on Monday about how the 2013 salary cap is expected to remain flat just as it did in 2012. Lombardi goes on to state that organizations that have executed contracts with hefty increases for many players will have a tough time keeping these teams together. That is not a shocking revelation mind you, but certainly something to keep in mind.

After the new CBA was approved it was believed by many that the salary cap could increase to around $130 million or greater by 2013, but it is looking more and more like that speculation was nothing more than wishful thinking. The new TV contract money does not kick in until 2014, and it is still not clear what type of increase in cap it will bring with it.

I wrote a while ago about the state of the Steelers salary cap situation in 2013 and it is worth revisiting now during this dead period of the off-season.

I can throw out to you the 2013 estimated Rule of 51 number next off-season of $133 million based on the players currently under contract right now for 2013, but that number is pretty much worthless when you consider that the Steelers are still trying to get a long-term deal done with wide receiver Mike Wallace prior to the start of the season. The second year cap charge of the contract and how the deal is structured will provide us with much more clarity on if it can be restructured next off-season, assuming the deal gets done of course.

The best place to start is by looking at the large cap hits already on the books for the Steelers in 2013 and they of course include Ben Roethlisberger ($19.595 million), LaMarr Woodley ($13.240 million), James Harrison ($13.035 million), Lawrence Timmons ($11.160 million), Troy Polamalu ($10.138 million) and Ike Taylor ($9.454 million).

Those six players account for $76.622 million of 2013 salary cap space as they stand right now, but there is no reason to start heading toward a bridge because of them.

First off with Roethlisberger, who has restructured the last few seasons, we could see some sort of extension that might lower his 2013 cap hit some. That is a post for another day, but when the smoke clears prior to the start of the 2013 season I am willing to bet that $19.595 million number is lower.

Assuming both stay healthy and produce, both Woodley and Timmons are primed to be restructured once again to push some money forward. While I do not think they will use it all, there looks to be at least a good $14 million worth of money to be played with via simple restructures between both of their new contracts that they signed last off-season. Both of these contracts present the most flexibility in my opinion for the Steelers depending on how much money they need to free up.

The numbers of both Polamalu and Taylor are likely to be what they are as both are signed through the 2014 season. Assuming both remain healthy and productive, I fully expect them to stay status quo.

Harrison on the other hand is a different story though. He will be 35 next season and everything is predicated on his health and the quality of his play this upcoming season. My records indicate he is due a $3 million LTBE (Likely To Be Earned Incentive) of $3 million next year which in all likelihood is a roster bonus. This is on top of his $6.570 base salary due him in 2013 and his signing bonus proration amount of $3.465 million. Should that back of his take a turn for the worse and his production drop in 2012, the Steelers stand to save $8.105 million by releasing him prior to having to pay him the roster bonus.

Should Harrison wind up having a Pro Bowl type season in 2012, it could be tough to keep him at that cap number regardless, especially if they have Wallace signed to a new deal and are working on a long-term contract for Antonio Brown, who will be a restricted free agent after this season.

Although not listed above, Brett Keisel and Ryan Clark will both be entering the final year of their contracts in 2013. Their level of play and health will go a long way in deciding their fate next off-season. Clark presents a savings of $3.5 million, while Keisel presents a savings of $2.825 million. Unless either drop off tremendously in 2012, it is hard to imagine both not being on the roster at this same time next year.

So while the look ahead at the initial hard numbers would suggest some doom and gloom, I don\’t see next off-season as being as tough on Omar Khan as this past off-season was. I also don\’t see it being a problem getting both Wallace and Brown both signed to long-term deals either. Khan has shown time and time again his ability to navigate through tough cap situations and the projected flat cap in 2013 should not be a problem for him. A few simple restructures of Woodley and Timmons combined with an extension of Roethlisberger should get a bulk of the money needed freed up. There is always a tough cut or two to be made every off-season it seems and Harrison very well could be it.