Sevens games into the season Pittsburgh Steelers left guard Willie Colon appears to finally be settling into his new position and today I was asked via email if I believed a rumor floating around that he would be a salary cap casualty next year.
Being as so many would rather base their speculation on whims, I will speculate using facts as it relates to how Colon is currently playing and what it would cost to cut him next year.
Colon, who signed a five-year, $29 million contract prior to the 2011 season, is scheduled to earn a base salary of $5.5 million in 2013. His cap hit in 2013 is scheduled to be $7.65 million after restructuring prior to the start of this season.
Should the Steelers decide to cut Colon prior to June 1st of 2013 they will be hit with a $6.45 million dead money charge towards the 2013 cap. So basically they would save only $1.25 million in cap space in doing so. Not really worth it, right?
Sure, they could wait until after June 1st to cut Colon like they did with Max Starks back in 2011 and save $5.5 million in 2013. At that point, though, they would then have a $4.3 million dead money charge due in 2014.
Unlike Starks, once Colon is cut you can bet that he will be snapped up quickly by another team. Let\’s face it, Starks still had gas left in the tank when they cut him and they are fortunate that they have him back in the fold now after the Jonathan Scott experiment flopped and rookie Mike Adams wasn\’t quite ready to assume the left tackle position.
Colon might be 29 years old, but the Hofstra product doesn\’t have a lot of mileage on him for his age thanks to injuries to his Achilles and triceps that forced him to miss all but one game the last two seasons. Prior to those injuries Colon started 50 straight regular season games and he hasn\’t missed a single snap this season. Injury prone? I would call it injury unfortunate, myself.
So what about his play at left guard since the move from right tackle? After all, that is what matters the most. I think we all can agree that the transition certainly got off to a bumpy start, and nobody will forget the four holding calls that he incurred in the game the game against the Philadelphia Eagles. However, since that game, Colon hasn\’t been flagged once and has put together three solid showings.
Has he been perfect? Has it been Pro Bowl worthy? No to both, but progress is being made and the tape doesn\’t lie. If he keeps playing at the same level or better for the rest of the season the Steelers would be foolish to cut him loose.
Also, do not forget that Colon has position flexibility as he could certainly play right tackle should an emergency ever arise.
Every year the fan base and the media freak out about an upcoming salary cap hell. It\’s easy to do, but every year Omar Khan navigates through it with ease and does so without having an extreme amount of casualties that can still play. The last time I checked, Hines Ward, James Farrior, Chris Kemoeatu, Bryant McFadden, and Arnaz Battle never signed with another team following their releases this past offseason.
Sure, the Steelers have some big decisions ahead of them as it relates to Mike Wallace and James Harrison, but they also have wiggle room with the contracts of LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons as well.
So to answer the question posed by the emailer, unless the play of Colon falls off significantly in the second half of the season, or he suffers another unfortunate injury, he will be back in 2013 under the terms of his current contract.