PLEASE KEEP IN MIND THAT THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ON 12/25/12 Unfortunately it is that time of year that we need to start looking at the Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 salary cap situation.
As we head into the final week of the 2012 season the Steelers currently have 37 players under contract for 2013 that will count nearly $129 million against the cap, which is obviously roughly $8 million or so over the projected 2013 cap limit.
There is currently another $461,541 in dead money on the books for 2013 in addition to the above.
We can safely speculate that the 5 restricted free agents and the 2 exclusive rights free agents will all be tendered. The levels are of course open to debate, but for this early look we will go at the minimum projected levels for each which totals out at a projected $7.71 million.
This brings our projected total for 42 players and the dead money at a little over $137 million, or roughly $16 million over the cap.
So how will Omar Khan work his magic on this?
Let\’s start with LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons. Both will once again be restructured like they were this past offseason. Those projected restructures of their base salaries and the $2.5 million roster bonus due Timmons will easily clear roughly $11.5 million in cap space. I have wrote about this in the past and fully expect this to happen.
Ben Roethlisberger can be restructured once again without issue which should clear at most another $7 million in cap space. That figure is based on turning $10 million of his $11.6 million base into signing bonus. This is roughly what they did last season with him and there is no reason to think that it would not happen again.
With those three restructures done we have cleared roughly $18.5 million in cap space.
James Harrison is the big elephant in the room this offseason that needs his $10.035 million cap charge in 2013 addressed. Merely cutting Harrison will clear $5.105 million in cap space. There will not be a restructure I do not believe and I doubt they will go to him and ask him to take a pay cut. This is just the ugly side of the business.
Willie Colon is also somewhat of an elephant that will need to be addressed as well. Cutting him outright will save $1.2 million and it is something the Steelers really need to think about doing based on his injury history now. Had he stayed healthy this year he would have been safer.
Between those five moves we have cleared nearly $25 million in cap space which would have the Steelers roughly $9 million under the cap with only 11 roster spots left to fill against the cap, of which half will likely be draft picks.
Keep in mind that the Steelers will be able to roll over any unused cap space from this year, which figures to be around $3 million or so. I will have that number after the season is over. In addition, the Steelers will have (3) $250,000 veteran credits totaling $750,000 that can be used on veteran players as we get closer to the final roster cut down day.
If everything goes as I listed above the Steelers should be fine as far as cap space goes. Once again they will not be active in free agency outside of trying to sign a few of their own unrestricted players and one or two veteran bargains.
There might be a cap casualty or two of the players under contract below and the two obvious candidates would be Jerricho Cotchery and Brett Keisel. Those two, if released, would clear $3.835 million, but it might not have to come to that.
UPDATED 12/28/12 – Added Marshall McFadden, Damon Cromartie-Smith and Jamie McCoy. UPDATED 1/12/13 – All futures added & Chris Rainey released. UPDATED 1/30/13 – All new futures added.
PLEASE KEEP IN MIND THAT THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ON 12/25/12
Looks to be pretty good news, as we could live with Harrison and Colon being gone. I think Worilds and Foster can handle it. Dave do you think with those numbers they will talk with Wallace on a long term deal?
they might talk to him, but unless they franchise him, so will several other teams.guaranteed cash is king.
Dave, what is your opinion on us signing Keenan Lewis to a new contract??
Glad to see you are finally coming around to saying it could be worthwhile to cut Colon. Gotta move on from Colon & let some other team try to depend on him. Its a cap hit but Colbert & crew will learn from that.
Restructuring I generally agree with, but I have to believe we will be seeing less restructuring now that Art is back. Restructuring has never really been his MO and although some restructuring is necessary, I can see him wanting it reduced.
So basically we are looking at much of the same team again next year, minus Harrison, Colon and a few other known names here or there. Get Spence back, pIckup a few few draft picks that can contribute and maybe a bargain journeyman FA or two. Hope that there are less injuries and the coaching improves and we’ll be back fighting for the division, but far from an elite team. And that’s the absolute best case scenario with this roster/staff.
If the PS really wanted to get ahead of things, take some pain, but start a serious restructuring, instead of just nursing along this team of underacheiving young players and injury prone relics, they would also cut: Troy, Keisel, Taylor and Clark. Taylor is the only one that would be significantly missed. Resign Lewis, maybe another FA DB, continue to work on front 7 in draft, perhaps a saftey.
Kind of off topic here but how did a search for spongebob voice actor manage to get a hit on this page?
Harrison, once his knee settled down, has been all over the field, and, while he didn’t register a lot of sacks, he still collapses the pocket, still provides a lot of pressure, and is not bad when he drops into coverage. I have not seen him miss many tackles this season, and I can’t understand why everyone is so willing to let him go with that non-entity Worilds behind him. I’d rather put Adrian Robinson in than him and take him out in coverage situations.
Anyway, I would ask Harrison to take a pay cut and keep him as a Steeler a bit longer. This isn’t just sentimentality, he’s still good.
And we have a lot of spots we need to draft for. Linebacker is up there, but so is safety. And maybe Heyward and McClendon will step up next year, but Hood gets beaten all over the field. So many spots to draft talent for, might as well try to keep some more of our established talent here… And that means the Beard and Deebo might have another year in Black and Gold…
Steelers should cut anyone over 30 with Ben Clark and Troy being the exception. Harrison Keisel are done. They need to draft linebackers and safeties in April
Where did Art go?
Meant Dan not Art
I’m guessin it was because of the way the Steelers offensive line blocked. You know more holes then a Sponge!!
Or maybe it was the way Tomlin managed some games as if he had the brain of Patrick Star.
Are you kidding? How on earth, why on earth would you even think of cutting Ryan Clark? He is everything that Polamalu wasn’t this year: always there, hard-hitting, always in the right place, stopping both run and pass… He was a beast.
If only our receivers and running backs were equipped like Squidward…you know 6 arms, then maybe just maybe, they could hold on to the friggin ball !!!
Given his recent health history and lack of impact plays, how is Polamalu not also considered an elephant in the room? The defense did pretty well without him this year. 10 million is a big hit for any safety, no less one that appears to be on the downside. If Foster walks via Free Agency (very possible), it seems to me that the savings (1.2m) to cut Colon probably is not a wise move.
Too bad Woodley doesn’t get paid by performance.
I have faith that Woodley can come back and have a much better year next year. It was only one year and one in which he was playing hurt. I think he comes back as a surprise next year. Also, I’m not sure where people get off saying Hood and Heyward are busts. We don’t run a 4-3 – they’re not supposed to put up big sack numbers or even pressure the QB. They’re supposed to eat up/confuse blockers to free up LBs. It was Foote/Woodley who were too slow rushing the QB (even Harrison was often just too slow to get there). That’s not to say that Foote was bad against the run (he was great) or that Harrison was ineffective, but it is the responsibility of the LBs to get to the QB. What should be argued is that our defensive scheme is too predictable for a league where the short passing game is king. We desperately need some edge rushers to take the pressure off of our secondary/linebackers in coverage. There’s no garauntee that spence can come in and provide us with much beyond athleticism, so bringing back Foote for a year isn’t the worst (although under no circumstances should he be left on the field covering any tight end in this league on obvious passing downs). He may retire anyway.
Our priorities, like every year, should be in-house. We do have talent, but given the cap situation we should be looking to:
1) Part ways with Harrison – I understand the argument that currently exists with respect to bringing him back. He makes plays consistently. That’s fine, but are we really willing to pay 11 million to someone who just “makes plays consistently”? We should not relate his performance to the rest of our defense, which could not make plays outside of Timmons. Our priority should be to draft some edge rusher in the first round who can get to the QB enough such that the cost-benefit of a young edge rusher outweighs that of Harrison. It would be significantly better in the long-term interest of the team.
2) Re-sign Keenan Lewis and Sign Cortez Allen to a four year deal – This might be the hardest thing to get done, but Lewis can shut someone down the same way Ike can (though he may not have the same speed), while Allen has shown his penchant for actually making a play on the ball in the air. We desperately need someone in the secondary to do this. If this means parting ways with Ike (my favorite player on the team), so be it. I’d prefer to keep Ike where he is, but if Lewis can do the same thing for this team at a cheaper rate and for a longer time, than cost-benefit should outweigh sentimentality.
3) Start McLendon and Cut Hampton – If all goes according to plan this weekend, Ta’amu will show us what he’s worth against the run. If he can spell McLendon on obvious running downs with some effectiveness, I’d be happy with McLendon being re-signed to a 3 or 4 year deal while Ta’amu develops (or until we have the ability to draft a highly regarded nose tackle in some future draft.
4) Draft a capable safety (or two) – Vaccaro, Reid, Elam or McDonald should be available in the middle of the second round. My preference is Elam, who looks a whole lot like Ed Reed, but his stock is on the rise. Regardless, we need a playmaker who can spell Troy/Clark (and, we should keep those two around to pass along their knowledge). I wouldn’t be surprised if we took two safeties; one in the 2nd and one in the 3rd. Summary of draft to this point: 1. Edge rusher, 2. Play making safety, 3. Run-support safety.
5) Re-sign Starks to a 1-year deal – Good O-lineman are too expensive to get in free agency, and we’ve drafted too many o-lineman in the early rounds not to see how they pan out this year. I think Gilbert is a solid pass-blocking RT, but Adams at LT is still up in the air to some extent. Having Starks back for a year as an insurance policy for Ben is the best idea that this franchise would be wise to have (this should even be priority #1).
6) Sign a backup QB and let Wallace walk – If we’re to get any QB in free agency, even as a backup, we won’t be able to afford Wallace. We’ll need someone who’s started in the NFL before to feel comfortable should Ben go down. Drafting a fourth or fifth round QB would be a good idea as well.
7) Re-sign Dwyer and let him start every game – There should be no question that Mendy will walk. If that’s the case, we are fortunate to have RBs with significant NFL experience behind him, and with so many other positions of need, the Steelers don’t have to waste a draft pick on one. If this is the case, the organization needs to change its philosophy and let Dwyer be “the guy”, whether he fumbles once or not. Get this man the ball and let’s see what he can do.
8) Tender all other players – Unless there is some cap room at this point, re-signing Sanders to a long term deal might not happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, but they will at the very least need to tender him and their other RFAs.
9) If we let go of Colon, re-sign Foster – Get this man a deal. He’s nearly always solid.
Anyway, just my two-cents.
I agree with most all those many points. Only a couple I dont.
* Yur right Ziggy not making plays is because he’s in a 3-4. Thats fine because Ziggy was only a 7th round pick or guy off the street. Oh wait, he was a 1st round pick. Can get a cheaper wide body off street to do that. McClendon proved that.
*I too dont want to hav to use a draftpick on a running back bcaus we really need to use picks on other positions, but unfortunately cant count on Dwyer to be that, at least not yet, he might show up to camp out of shape again. If you watch other teams runners yu’ll see lots of Dwyers, not so special that I would pass up a better running back, & teams have gotten them in middle rounds.
I am a bit surprised that most of the moves being suggested tend to place emphasis on a rebuild of the defense…..when it was clearly the offense that cost the Steelers a shot at a playoff run.
Well we certainly have plenty to talk about this off-season. A shame the “off season” started so early. Although I’d have to agree that we need to clear Harrison’s contract and most of the hit against our cap, does anyone argue to keep him? I’m probably more neutral about it than most. I expect one of the young guys, i.e. Worilds, will provide a better cost-value ration, but I would be up for putting up a fair market offer to Harrison if he plans to play and is on the open market. I also think Foote deserves a fair market offer. LB is too important of a position in our defense to risk a lack of depth.
More than anything this offseason, I want to see the organization refocus on the long term success of the team. They have had an endless parade of salary restructures (converting would be salary to prepaid signing bonuses) to squeeze under the cap the last two years, operating with a win now at all costs mentality. Now is the time to pull back the reins on this approach. This year’s team, at 7-8, was clearly not worthy of mortgaging future salary cap money and the sad news is the team is reaching the end with a lot of the old core players. Up to now the team has tried to keep everyone of their contirbutors to the very bitter end, often times paying big money in their twilight years. When was the last time the team let a big name guy walk? I don’t think you want to operate that way, desperately paying to hold onto everyone as if they are the only way you can win. You must be able to continually find new guys to have sustained success in a salary cap league.
Here are few things I would like to see the team do: 1) Release Harrison. He was OK this year, but not great. The end is very close anyways. 2) Don’t even bother trying to sign Mendy or Wallace. Save a lot of money, make a statement to the whole team that not everyone is guaranteed to be re-signed, and move away from their soft style of play. 3) I’d probably keep Colon, only because much of his financial damage has already been inflicted. Cutting him now seems to be the worst time to do so. 4) Put a serious halt on contract restructures. Most especially, do not restructure Woodley again, as it is a serious mistake to continue to put money in his pocket before he has earned it. 5) Hopefully sign K. Lewis. It would be a real shame if the team cannot sign one the few truly promising young players they have. But, I wouldn’t hesitate to let the market speak first before making a final offer.
I would not mind seeing Casey Hampton & Larry Foote come back, w/ Casey as a backup and Foote starting, or co-starting until Spence is ready. I can also see a guy like Harrison and/or Polamalu, and/or Keisel getting an extension w/ some fake years added. Willie Colon, love him when he plays, but he can’t stay on the field often enough.
Yeah I agree that Ziggy can be replaced by a big body (even off the street), but it doesn’t mean he’s necessarily a bust. Give him another year or two.
If a good RB were available in the middle rounds I’d be fine with that. First 3 rounds we should go defensive, though
I also agree with a lot of the posts in this thread. A few thoughts:
1. I wouldn’t mind seeing Foote return on a one year deal for the veteran minimum. He is better suited for the base D than S. Spence, who will then replace Foote on 3rd down and in the nickel package.
2. Re-sign Keenan Lewis or draft a CB in higher rounds (doesn’t have to be this year). Need someone to play alongside Cortez Allen – who will eventually replace Ike Taylor as CB1.
3. Re-sign Wallace (if the price is right). He takes a helluva lot of pressure, and opens things up for, the other receivers. Yes, he had a bad year, but I re-sign him and keep together one of the most dangerous WR stables in the league.
4. I wouldn’t mind seeing Hampton return on a one year deal for the veteran minimum. Steve McLendon was last year’s preseason phenom – what happened there? Obviously something happened or he would’ve played more.
5. It’s time to shake things up at the running back position – via releasing a couple of current players and making acquisitions in this years draft / free agency.
Woodley very well may come back and have a good season next year. But, he was out or ineffective for the whole second half of last year as well, so we are talking about two seasons in which he has not helped the team much at all since signing his huge contract. That’s $20M+ out the window already. The team should not restructure his deal again, as it is the wrong move for many reasons.
I agree with most of your other points. I would say there is no reason to sign Sanders to a long term deal yet, since he has not put together a full, solid season in his career to date.
Agree about Troy and Colon. It was nice to Troy finally play one decent game this year this past weekend. But it doesn’t come close to justifying his expense. His numerous calf injuries date back to the 2010 season and it’s seems the team is simply praying that he will be able to play the better part of a season at this point.
Colon, has been a major bust, but I think you might as well go with him one more season at this point considering his cap numbers. Of course, the team will also need to factor in the cost of his “backup” (i.e. likely eventual starter) when deciding on him, so maybe it would be better to just cut ties with him now.
Just as important, Clark costs less than half of what Troy does. He’s exactly the type of medium cost/good value guy that I think well designed teams require at as many positions as possible. I would love for the Steelers to stockpile as many of these types of players as they can get.
I agree with your thinking. If the team does not do something a little more dramatic, we should expect a similar season again, with more injuries and similar results. But I do think the team may make more changes this go around. Besides dropping Harrison, I would take a long look at Troy as well. But I would hold onto Clark and Taylor.
I think (and hope) we will be seeing less restructuring, but I don’t think it will be due to Dan’s return. Rather, I think the team knew they going “all in” the last two seasons, with the hope their veteran team could bring in one more SB. And I have no problem with that approach for the last two years. The “all in” bet didn’t pan out, but now is the time to change.
For everyone who wants to praise the defense and blast the offense, keep in mind where the team spends its money. 8 of the top 12 cap numbers belong to defensive players. I agree the defense was better than the offense this past year as it almost always is. But it should be when you spend most of your money on that side of the ball.
Here is a telling stat: heading into the 2013 offseason, the Steelers have devoted more cap dollars ($78M) to their defense than any other team in the NFL. On the flip side, the Steelers have devoted $54M in cap dollars to the their offense, and that amount ranks 22nd in the NFL.
The Steelers should look to limit the amount of cap money they defer via restructure this offseason. Last year, the team put $26M on their cap credit card and wound up with an 8-8 team despite the extra cap expense . Unfortunately it is obvious the team must defer more money yet again to get under the cap. While my first reaction was to think Woodley’s contract should not even be touched this year, that would probably necessitate restructuring the contracts for Ben, Timmons, and Brown to the maximum amounts possible which also is not very appealing. Instead I think it may be preferable to spread the risk evenly among all four players including Woodley, deferring about two-thirds of the amount available with each contract (about $14M of the total $22M available). Maybe a little less on Woodley and a little more on Timmons.
The third down defense died as the season got older. That means when Polamalu, and Harrison were playing it got worse. 34 points to the Raiders cost them that game. 26 and 34 points to the Titans and Chargers respectively. No pass rush made a half decent secondary look bad. With Ike back and hopefully a resigned Lewis the secondary again should be good. Let Mundy go and resign Allen. McLendon is an unspectacular upgrade over Hampton at this point. Harrison, Woodley, and Timmons are hogging close to 1/3 of the cap. Even if they were playing up to expectations this does not make sense. They overpaid for Woodley and Timmons and it will haunt the team for at least 2 more years. Woodley is a pass rush specialist that only looks good when Harrison is looking good.
it’s time for the youth movement. One of the reason that I want Keith Butler to be promoted now is a fresh perspective. Tough decisions need to be made and LeBeau always wants to keep his veterans too long. Whats the point of having a number one Defensive ranking and you didn’t make the playoffs. Past time for a DC change.
Im going to be very unpopular with these suggestions, but what are peoples thoughts on Polamalu? With that cap figure and his injury history, he’s gone if i was GM. Ben needs a long hard look too. We definitely need a QB in the draft (Syracuse QB anyone?)
Harrison, Hampton and even Woodley all need a long hard look at too. Its time to make changes because they arent getting any younger.
The Difference Between the 2013 and 2010 Steelers Salary Cap Situation:
Entering this offseason, the top 10 Steelers players salary cap charges (see below) amount to $100.3M (2nd highest amount in the NFL). That means these 10 players account for 82% of the available $122M league cap number. Some of these 10 players will certainly be cut or restructured, lowering their cap charge as the team moves to get in cap compliance by March 12th. But, it should be obvious the team is paying too much money to too few players when you consider the Steelers need to fill out a team roster of an additional 41 players with relatively little remaining cap money.
As a comparison, entering the 2010 offseason (i.e. before any offseason cuts or restructures), the top 10 Steelers players cap charges (see below) amounted to only $63.7M. Although the 2010 year was uncapped due to the expiring CBA, the league estimated $120M as the appropriate cap number that year. This means the Steelers had devoted only 53% of its cap to its top 10 players back then. As mentioned above, that percentage has grown to 82% in just three seasons! The team has become too top heavy salary cap wise and that is the precise reason the team is in such a major salary cap crunch right now. (They will struggle to sign few, if any of their whopping 17 UFAs. They may lose some of their RFAs. They have practically no ability to bring in any free agent from another team. They will need to cut some players. And restructures will be mandatory to prevent many more cuts across the team.)
There are three main reasons the team has become so top heavy salary cap wise: 1) They signed numerous players to huge contracts in the last few seasons, especially the deals signed in 2011 (Woodley, Timmons, Troy, Ike, Colon). The team clearly has overpaid to varying degrees on most of those contracts to this point in time. 2) They have been deferring cap money for several seasons as a regular, primary method to clear method to clear cap space, but all those credit card type indulgences have begun to add up. In particular, the cap hits for Ben, Woodley and Timmons are growing very ugly in part due to past restructuring. 3) The league salary cap number has remained flat for the last few seasons. But, in spite of that, the Steelers have continued to pay ever growing salaries to their star players. It’s tough to know anything here for sure, but in hindsight it certainly appears the Steelers themselves may have misjudged how fast the cap would grow.
The last point is speculation, but it’s hard to believe that a franchise like the Steelers believes that devoting 82% of your cap to just 10 players is a good team strategy. How is a team supposed to field a full, competitive roster when the vast majority of their salary cap is going to a limited number of players? That’s not how they won their last two Super Bowls. Unfortunately, they are now paying more money to less accomplished players (such as Timmons and Brown) as compared to players who helped them to 3 SB appearances and 2 wins (such as Farrior and Ward) in spite of the fact the league salary cap has been flat for the last several years (see individual player cap hits below). The only way to get out of this scenario is to reduce player cap hits at the top end of the roster (by cutting big contracts and/or negotiating paycuts, while at the same time scaling back the amount of restructures done, and waiting for real increases in the league cap number). This could be accomplished gradually over a few seasons. If not, the team will need to continue to deal with the same types of cap problems year after year, until the need to “gut the team” becomes inevitable. Strangely enough, Kevin Colbert has been referencing the possibility quite a bit lately.
List of Top 10 Player Cap Charges Entering 2013 Offseason: Ben 19.6M Woodley 13.2M Timmons 11.2M Troy 10.1M Harrison 10.0M Ike 9.5M Miller 8.0M Colon 7.7M Brown 6.2M Clark 4.8M Top 10 Total = $100.3M (82% of $122M team salary cap)
List of Top 10 Player Cap Charges Entering 2010 Offseason: Ben 12.3M Troy 8.3M A. Smith 6.6M Ike 6.5M Starks 6.4M Harrison 6.4M Ward 4.9M Miller 4.7M Keisel 3.9M Farrior 3.8M Top 10 Total = $63.7M (53% of $120M team salary cap)
One thing that I keep thinking about is many of the BIG named, highly payed guys will be gone after 2014 along with their high cost and some might not even play through their final year, namely Harrison, Troy and Ike Taylor and of course Colon could also be gone soon as well. Clark and Keisel will also be gone though their contracts are low and manageable. Troy might be the only one of the group that plays through 2014 and maybe Clark if given an extension.
That leaves Ben, Woodley, Timmons, Miller and Brown.. and we have to factor in that KLewis and Pouncey will be highly payed soon as well, but Lewis cap hit wont be anywhere near what Ike’s is and Pouncey contract could be worked to give him a lower cap hit as well, atleast initially.
So, I think by process of elimination our cap problems wont be as bad as they have been, as early as 2014
The Steelers, Rooney, Colbert and others truly were paying (overpaying) for a championship team.. I think their intentions were good, but as we see now, keeping older often injured players and paying them too much money will eventually come back and kick you in the a@#
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