The Pittsburgh Steelers are not even through with their restructures this offseason and already there is concern about the damage that they are doing to 2014 and beyond by pushing forward more money. Fans go through this concern every year because most just don\’t understand the real numbers and what lies ahead. Thank God Omar Khan does.
Here is the 2014 big picture for you.
The Steelers currently have 32 players under contract for 2014. Assuming the forthcoming restructures of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and linebacker LaMarr Woodley go as planned, the team will have $122,517,760 committed to the 2014 cap with those 32 players.
Hopefully you have not kicked the chair out from beneath at this point.
The top 10 cap commitments in 2014, after the Roethlisberger and Woodley restructures are completed this week, will total out somewhere around $104,654,252, which is 85% of the $122,517,760 total. Those 10 players, in order, are Roethlisberger, Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, James Harrison, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, Willie Colon and Maurkice Pouncey.
There is still a chance that Harrison and Colon could be released this offseason, but if they\’re not, it is hard seeing both being on the roster in 2014. If both are ultimately released next offseason, instead of this offseason, it will free up $10.925 million worth of cap space in 2014 for starters.
Taylor will be entering the final year of his contract in 2014. Depending on his play in 2013, he could be a candidate to have his base salary of $7 million cut in half or be released outright. This is especially true should the Steelers wind up re-signing unrestricted free agent cornerback Keenan Lewis this offseason. Cutting Taylor outright next offseason, should that be the end result, would save $7 million cap space in 2014. Should he take a pay cut instead, the amount of the cut will be cap money saved.
Polamalu is an enigma and his 2014 status depends entirely on his play in 2013. Should he play in at least 14 games, and do so at an All-Pro level, his $8.25 million base salary in 2014 will be justified. We will leave that one alone for now, but 2014 will be the final year of his current contract just so you know.
Both Roethlisberger and Pouncey will be prime candidates to have their contracts extended next offseason, which in turn will lower their 2014 cap hits. How much? That is entirely too hard to speculate right now, but the process will produce cap savings in 2014.
Timmons and Brown will once again be prime candidates to have their contracts restructured next offseason, assuming of course both are healthy and productive. Even Woodley, assuming he has a bounce back season in 2013, could be a candidate for yet another restructure. All three will be fallback options, and I am in no way guaranteeing that all three will be restructured again. Just keep it in the back of your head as an option.
Miller, depending on how his knee recovers in 2013, could also be in line for a short extension, which in turn would lower his 2014 cap number.
As you can see, I have addressed all 10 players currently in the top 10 for 2014 with only three of them, at most, being restructured next offseason. There is quite a bit of cap savings to be had within those 10 players through the various means I laid out.
So what about the new draft class this year, and what about players such as Lewis, who might be re-signed this offseason? We still have to fill out a Rule of 51 for next offseason, right?
Lewis if re-signed, will have a very manageable cap hit in 2013 and in 2014 I anticipate he will have a base salary and a roster bonus that can easily be rolled into a signing bonus via a restructure. If they need to. The Steelers just did that this offseason with Brown in the second year of his new contract so you should expect it with Lewis next offseason. They might not have to do it, but consider yourself warned.
The 2013 draft class, what remains of them of them next offseason, should only require roughly $5.5 million in cap space in their second season. The 2014 draft class will have a rookie pool in the neighborhood of $5.5 million, but they will be displacing the bottom end of the Rule of 51. The bottom of the roster at this time next year will consist of more futures players, just as it does this year. Always remember displacement.
Are there any candidates for the franchise tag next offseason? Not really, no, but if not extended this offseason, linebacker Jason Worilds would be the only one that might remotely warrant consideration. That, however, depends entirely on what happens on the field in 2013. Should he and Ziggy Hood be extended prior to the start of the 2013 season, both of their second year cap hits in 2014 should be more than manageable.
Restricted free agents next offseason? Outside of running back Baron Batch and cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, assuming both stick, there shouldn\’t be many, if any. There could be a few exclusive rights free agents, however, depending on who makes the 2013 roster. Those players are cheap to retain.
To recap. 85% of the total cap commitment in 2014 is comprised of 10 players. At this time next offseason it will be a much lower percentage. The situation is not as bad as many would have you believe. Like every offseason there could be a termination or two and a few restructures are almost certain to happen. Extending the contracts of both Roethlisberger and Pouncey will alleviate more of the cap strain and a few more restructures will take care of the rest.
So will the Steelers be over the cap in February of 2014? Yes, more than likely, but once again it will be very fixable with very limited carnage. This is the life of a team in the NFL that has a franchise quarterback.
Estimated Top 10 2014 Steelers Salary Cap Charges After 2013 Contract Restructures
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