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.

  • Dan

    I know it is a necessary evil, but I really hate the idea of pushing money forward. Every dollar deferred is potential dead money.

    We also have to consider that we may end up needing to use the $9.5m franchise tag on Wallace next year. Ouch!

  • Mancoljduf11

    this is why people need to relize that wallace and the steelers are talking because as hard as it is to beleive simple money is only a fraction of what goes on in a contract negoiation, it is more complicated then some people think it is

  • Jprankster2005

    And people wonder why they just can’t throw all kinds of money at Wallace….. With these team getting younger I think it could save money….. Simple things like releasing Scott or Will Allen or picking Will Johsnon over David Johnson can save them around 4.5 million….. I think Scott will def. be released and save that 2.2 million, Allen on the other hand may be worth his 1.2 and If Both Johnson impress I say take the younger one and save the money….. Getting a new kicker will save money……. And as much as I hate to say this maybe looking to trade Harrison after the season instead of releasing him may be a better option because there are teams that have money and would def. be willing to take the upside of what he can bring and we could easily get a 2nd or 3rd round pick for him……. That’s if someone like Worilds can step up and be the guy…… then we have ILB hopefully they can go with Sly or Spence and one of those 2 guys actually do good and won’t have to resign foote……. There’s alot of ways to save money but keep turning money into bonuses is killing us in the future….. I would like to see Ben get a 1 or 2 yr. extension but it would have to be around 18 to 20 million for those 2 yrs. for him to accept then you have to worry if he get’s another concussion or 2 in the next yr. or 2 will you have to eat the dead money on his last few yrs…… Kiesel I think will come back no matter what……Since it’s not alot of money but I think that maybe Clark can be done in his last yr……. But Wallace is going to be one of the big key’s on what they will have to do, I’ve read alot of reports and most of them expect him just to play under the tender of 2.7 and walk next yr. because he believes he can get a bigger contract…… Which I don’t know because he hasn’t said anything and people are just speculating……. I think we gotta keep a younger team bascially and hope we can continue to make a run for another super bowl every yr……. That’s my opinion

  • Jprankster2005

    That won’t happen…. If no deal is reached he will walk next yr. and I wouldn’t be mad at him if he didn’t sign the Franchise Tag next yr. if they did happen to place it on him because then he can say he has out done his contract…… this yr they still have an option on him that’s why I don’t think he has out done his contract because is a restricted FA…… But I see him walking next yr. after playing for the tender of 2.7 this yr. and not giving it his all like jackson did last yr……

  • Pete

    If Harrison stays healthy, his back troubles are behind him and he puts up strong numbers this season (a lot of ifs), I don’t believe this will be his last season as a Steeler. I’m much more sceptical of the Steelers keeping both Brown and Wallace with large salaries at the WR position. We’ll see how this plays out both with Wallace and Brown, and with Harrison.

  • SteelersDepot

    No team is going to trade for Harrison with that current contract after the season is over considering his age and health risk. That is just silly talk.

  • Mancoljduf11

    when it comes to whether or not he will be here in 2013, you have your own opinion i personally think they will franchise him but that is just my opinion, however why are you assuming he wont give it his all this year, why dont you wait to say something like that until it actually happens instead of making a pre judgement on it, and i honestly think the whole thing with deshean jackson was overblown by the media and eagles fans who like steelers fans were trying to make jackson possibly leaving a postive thing ebventhough it is really a negative thing and going back to wallace i dont see any reson that they wont reach a deal this year anyway

  • Tim

    Seems like some of these guys re-do their contracts every year. But I have faith in Omar.

  • NW86

    Dave, I don’t doubt your Harrison numbers because you certainly know more about this than me. But I’m a little confused how they could save so much by cutting him – assuming it would be a pre-June 1 cut, wouldn’t they end up with another ~$3.5M or so in dead money from bonus proration in 2014 that would roll forward into 2013?

  • NW86

    Agreed about the effects of pushing money forward. It just makes it harder in future years when you’re still accounting for money that you paid previous years. However, They’ve had to do a lot of it the last 2 years and they’ll have to do it again in 2013. I just hope they do less of it than they did this year.

    The only good news is that they’re not the only team dealing with this situation. With this cap staying flat, there are a lot of teams that will have similar struggles for the next few years.

  • SteelersDepot

    Harrison has SB proration due in 2013 of $3,465,000.00 & $1,465,000.00 in 2014. That money would be combined & be dead in 2013 if cut pre June 1st.

  • Mancoljduf11

    way to call yourself out

  • LucasY59

    why would you think the Steelers would get rid of Clark after this year? they have absolutely no starting caliber backup safeties (they hardly even have backup caliber safeties behind Clark and Polamalu, theres almost no way (unless career ending injury) that the let him go. If I was going to make a prediction between Clark or Keisel being let go, I would put my $ on Keisel as they have Heyward behind him, I dont want either leaving after this year unless their play drops of completely, at the least let them be veteran backups and provide quality depth for 1 or 2 more years.

  • Derick

    Wish the Steelers had better depth at OLB talking about Harrison and his closing years as a Steeler. Are we sold on Worilds? I sure am not. Don’t even try to say you can play Timmons outside after Harrison is gone. Do you look to the draft? Risky…

  • Ahmad

    Well the good news is that it won’t be as tough next year as it was this year. The Steelers are only $10 million over the cap. Giving Ben an extension, restructuring Timmons and Woodley or giving them an extension as well, plus a few more cuts should put the Steelers well beneath the cap. Plus 2013 looks like the last year they will have to do all this shifty contract stuff as the TV money kicks in 2014 so everything is not as bad as it looks.

  • Ahmad

    Of course we look to the draft. I honestly think OLB needs to be addressed in the 1st round next year or 2nd round if they choose to go S in the 1st.

  • SteelSpine

    I agree, top-to-bottom.

  • SteelSpine

    Thanks for the details of Harrison’s $$. Harrison’s situation just goes to show that after sign a whopper deal, better have a whopper year this year. You nailed it; if his back goes bad again this year or any other reason he doesnt a whopper year this year, he’ll go the way of Joey Porter & Greg Lloyd etc.

    The problem with that is our OLB depth is shaky. Worllds is a question, & people who watched Timmons at moved to OLB more than I watched him there said Timmons did not do well at OLB. If draft an OLB in 1st round next draft, wouldnt know defense well enough to start, likely wouldnt play any more than spot duty as just some 3rd-down pass-rush situations.