The two questions that everyone has right now, is how much cap space do the Pittsburgh Steelers have after signing wide receiver Antonio Brown to a 5 year, $42.5 million extension today and do they still have enough cap space to sign restricted free agent Mike Wallace to a long-term deal?
Let\’s start first with available cap space. As hard as it is to believe, Brown only ate up $1.7 million in cap space on Friday with his new deal. The new rule of 51 number sits currently at around $119,174,179.00 and that includes the new contracts of Brown and first round pick David DeCastro. That number also includes the $2.742 million that Wallace is currently counting against the cap because of his outstanding restricted tender. The Steelers adjusted cap number for 2012 is believed to be $121,195 million, so on paper right now they are only around $2,020,821.00 million under the cap at this very moment.
Now we will look at available cap space for the first year of a new deal with Wallace, should he report, sign his tender, and then work out a new long-term deal. Should a new deal be reached, you pull out that $2.742 million he is currently costing against the cap this year. That brings the available cap space to around $4,762,821.00 million. Another thing to keep in mind is that General Manager Kevin Colbert said earlier this week that the team will use the three, $500,000 veteran salary cap credits that are that their disposal this year. Using those credits will create another $1.5 million in cap space by doing so. That brings the available cap space for the Steelers to work out a new deal with Wallace to around $6,262,821.00 million. Realistically that number is more likely to be around $6 million due to a few errors I think I might have in my numbers that I am trying to still track down.
Now the Steelers will likely want to have about a $2 million cushion heading into the season, so that means that they realistically have about $4 million, or slightly higher, worth of cap room for the first year cap hit of Wallace. That is still plenty of room to get a lucrative five year deal done with fair guaranteed money and reasonable cap hits in the first two years of the deal. Remember, it is structure and guaranteed money that are the two biggest things to look at in contracts, not total value, as I have posted about several times before.
Keep in mind that the deal for Brown was a five year extension and the total value is for six years, so for those that insist on going by average per year numbers, the Brown extension breaks down to $7.033 million per season. As I posted recently, a five-year, $45 million contract for Wallace, if structured right, that includes no more than a $15 million signing bonus, will have a first year cap hit of about $4 million. That contract of course would include a second year option bonus of sorts and a second year base salary of say $2 million.
Colbert mentioned on Thursday that they could have to restructure another contract depending on if they sign Wallace or not. In my opinion, and if my numbers are as close as I believe them to be, that shouldn\’t be necessary depending on how the final 53 man roster shakes out.
The move made by the Steelers to extend Brown on Friday, very well could have been in the cards the whole time. By getting it done early on in camp, if indeed it was in their plans to do later, sends an even clearer message to Wallace that the team is not afraid to move on without him. Keep in mind that the new deal for Brown only took up $1.7 million in cap space, but it gives the appearance of a large $42.5 million payout being made to another wide receiver on the roster that has done and said all the right things since he was drafted.
The move to also sign Brown long-term also protects the Steelers should Wallace decide that he wants this to be his final year in Pittsburgh. Although Brown more than likely could have been easily retained with just a first round restricted tender next offseason, just as the Steelers did with Wallace this past offseason, they now don\’t have to worry about the process. They also dont have to worry about Brown and his agent thinking that his market value has increased, should he have another spectacular year. It\’s done now.
Wallace still has the same two choices that he had prior to Brown getting his new contract today. He can either report now, sign his tender and then try to continue to work out a long-term deal before the start of the season or he can sit out until week 11 and then sign his tender so that he can qualify as an unrestricted free agent next offseason. I still believe the Steelers want to sign Wallace to a long-term deal, but as always, that deal will be on their terms and one that they deem to be fair. They do not overpay for wide receivers.