The Saturday business moves for the Pittsburgh Steelers now appear to be in the books following the release of linebacker James Harrison and the restricted tendering of running back Jonathan Dwyer, running back Isaac Redman, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and nose tackle Steve McLendon. Although it hasn\’t been reported, running back Baron Batch and cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke have both likely received their minimum salary exclusive rights tenders by now as well. Until I hear otherwise, I will assume they have.
With all of those moves now behind us we can take a look at where the Steelers are at salary cap wise and what the future might look like moving forward.
I currently have the Steelers Rule of 51 number at $120,262,372.66 and that includes the $1.4 million cap credit that they are due. That would put them around $2,737,627.34 million under the 2013 salary cap number of $123 million. In other words, they are cap compliant, and have been, well before March 12, the start of the new league year.
So what is next? Why so little cap room?
For starters, the Steelers still have the flexibility to restructure the contract of linebacker LaMarr Woodley at any time. They can clear $6 million plus worth of cap space by doing that. Will they? It all depends on how much more cap space they think they need, but at some point I still think that they will. It\’s there if they need it.
Keep in mind that the Steelers still have to get their 2013 draft class signed later on down the road and their rookie pool amount is currently estimated to be about $4.7 million. That doesn\’t take into consideration displacement either, so keep that in mind.
What about guard Willie Colon? The Steelers have not asked him to take a pay cut as of yet and I do not find that very surprising. Consider Colon in limbo right now. Cutting him right now really doesn\’t make any sense as the move only clears $795,000 in cap space after top 51 displacement. The Steelers could wait until after the draft is over and cut Colon with a post June 1st designation which would clear $5.5 million worth of cap space come June 2nd. If they are unable to draft a top guard in the draft, they have Colon to fall back on as their starter. Like I said, consider him in limbo and guaranteed nothing at this point.
So what about signing free agents, especially our own? Linebacker Larry Foote is destined to be re-signed. That might not happen for a while or it could happen right before the draft. It won\’t matter if it is a one or two year deal as his first year cap hit will be very affordable. The Steelers would really like to sign him to a one-year qualifying contract that comes with a reduced salary cap hit. We will have to wait and see what the deal turns out to be. There is no hurry.
Cornerback Keenan Lewis? It all depends on the cornerback market right now and what another team is willing to pay him. This hasn\’t changed since the season ended and the signing of cornerback William Gay was done to provide insurance should he indeed wind up elsewhere. Should Lewis ultimately get re-signed, his first year cap hit should easily be under $3 million based on what I believe the Steelers want to pay him and how they would like to structure the deal. It will only take one team willing to overpay him, however, and he will be gone. The Steelers would like to have Lewis back, but only at a good price.
All of the other unrestricted free agents such as quarterback Charlie Batch, tackle Max Starks, safety Will Allen, guard Doug Legursky or nose tackle Casey Hampton will only be re-signed at a minimum salary price for their years accrued if the Steelers want them back. More limbo players. Where applicable, the Steelers will try to get one-year qualifying contracts done as these come with reduced cap hits. Remember, displacement will not move the salary cap needle much, if any, should these types of players wind up being re-signed.
What about free agents from other teams? You really want me to answer that question? Last year the big signing was tight end Leonard Pope for the minimum. So far this year it has been Gay for a little more than the minimum. In other words, don\’t expect a huge splash per the usual. I am not saying that there won\’t be any, but if any are signed, they will come cheap.
Are there any more cuts coming? Outside of Colon possibly getting let go, I don\’t think so. Jerricho Cotchery, perhaps? There really isn\’t much savings to be had after displacement with him. I am not going to guarantee there won\’t be any outside of possibly Colon, but anything can happen.