Super Bowl XLVII is now behind us and that means the 2013 NFL combine is right around the corner. After that yearly event takes place in Indianapolis the next important date on the NFL calendar is March 12, the start of the new league year and day that all teams have be salary cap compliant.
This time of year I receive quite a few questions regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers cap situation as well as questions about the Rule of 51. In addition to that, several want to know what the official cap number is.
Below I will break down a few things related to the cap that will hopefully clear some things up for several of you.
Rule of 51: Come 4:00 p.m. eastern on March 12 all teams must be cap compliant with the Rule of 51. That rule counts the top 51 cap charges of players under contract as well as any prorated bonus amounts outside of the top 51 salaries. Also included in that number is any dead money for the year.
Once a restricted free agent or exclusive rights free agent is tendered, that full amount becomes one of the 51 salaries even though the player won\'t likely sign the tender for some time. The same this goes for the franchise tag, but we will not have to worry about the Steelers using it again this offseason.
As we sit here in the first part of February the Steelers conveniently have 51 players under contract for 2013. The cap hits of all 51 players add up to $135,304,676.00. The outstanding dead money amount currently sits at $597,780.00, which gives us a Rule of 51 number of $135,902,456.00.
Once the Steelers begin tendering their restricted and exclusive rights free agents, which will likely happen a few days prior to March 12, each of those players will knock the lowest paid player off of the Rule of 51 list.
The Steelers are expected to restructure the contracts of at least four players way prior to the March 12 deadline and a few terminations are likely to take place by then as well. These restructures and terminations will off course decrease the Rule of 51 number.
Steelers 2013 Cap Number: The current projected cap number for every team in 2013 is $120.9 million, which is an increase of $300,000 over last year. The Steelers also have a credit of $758,000 which is a carry-over of unused cap space from 2012. This credit, when applied to the current Rule of 51 number, leaves us with a new Rule of 51 number of $135,144,456.00, which leaves the Steelers currently $14,244,456.00 million over the $120.9 million.
Keep in mind that number does not reflect any tenders as of yet, or any restructures. When you project in the $7,650,000.00 worth of tenders that the Steelers are expected to offer to five of their restricted free agents and two of their exclusive free agents, you would get a Rule of 51 number of $139,959,456.00, which would be $19,059,456.00 million over the $120.9 million cap number when then credit is also applied. This gives you a much clearer idea of how much needs to be cut via restructures, terminations, and possibly even pay cuts, by the time March 12 rolls around.
Contract Restructures: The Steelers can save nearly $22 million in cap space should they fully restructure the contracts of Ben Roethlisberger, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Brown to the maximums allowed with each contract. A restructure is not a pay cut as the process consist of turning the base salary and any roster bonus, where applicable, into a signing bonus, which is then prorated evenly across the years remaining on the contract. Normally players that only have two years left on their contract are not restructured and this would include James Harrison, Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor. If the Steelers are wanting any money out of those three players they would each need to agree to take a pay cut, much like Casey Hampton did last offseason. The only difference with Hampton, however, is that he was in the final year of his contract and coming off of a major knee injury. Will Harrison give a $3 million discount to stay? We shall know soon.
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