Steelers Decision To Extend TE Heath Miller During The Offseason Should Be An Easy One

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller is now nearly one full year from the serious knee injury suffered late last season and is currently on pace to catch 62 passes for 667 yards, despite missing the first two games while finishing up his rehab. With 2014 currently scheduled to be the final year of Miller’s current contract, and the team needing salary cap space, a decision will need to be made almost immediately following this season as to whether or not to extend him.

Miller is currently scheduled to count $9,466,500 against the Steelers 2014 salary cap and $6.02 million of that is his base salary. That would be the amount of cap space saved if he were to be cut outright, which we all likely agree won’t happen. Sure, the Steelers could simply let Miller play out his final year and decide whether or not to franchise him in following the 2014 season, but I do not believe that will be the course of action taken with him.

Remember, Miller is scheduled to make that $6.02 million in 2014, so that needs to be factored into any extension given him when you talk about new money over old money. So what would an extension look like for Miller that would be good for both sides?

First, at the very least, Miller will count roughly $4.4 million 2014 salary cap plus whatever signing bonus proration is given to him as part of an extension. That $4.4 million number is the sum of a veteran minimum salary plus the outstanding $3,446,500 bonus proration from his previous bonus amortization. There is no way around that $4.4 million plus number.

Keep in mind that one of the goals here is to clear cap space for 2014 in addition to locking Miller up, so in my opinion, a three-year extension with a four-year total value of $30 million should do the trick. That deal would include an $8 million signing bonus and a first year base salary of $1 million. The second year of the deal will also likely need to be guaranteed as part of the extension, as I do not believe $9 million guaranteed will be nearly enough to get the deal done when you talk old money versus new money. That would mean giving Miller a guaranteed 2015 base salary of $5 million, which would then up his two year take to $15 million guaranteed.

The back end of that deal really doesn’t matter, but in my example it would include non guaranteed base salaries of $7 million and $8 million in 2016 and $2017 and $500,000 roster bonuses in each of those two years. That totals the deal out at $30 million.

So what would the cap hit look like in each of those years? For starters, Miller’s 2014 cap charge would be roughly $6.4 million and that would clear the Steelers roughly $3 million in much needed cap space. In 2015, Miller’s cap number would be an affordable $7 million with the final two years of the deal coming in at $9.5 and $10.5 million respectively.

Should the Steelers need to cut Miller after the 2015 season, he would have $4 million dead money charge if released prior to June 1. If designated a post June 1 release, he would become a $2 million dead money hit in both 2016 and 2017.

The contract extension that I outlined above would give Miller an average yearly value of $7.5 million and that would rank him second behind New England Patriots tight end Rob Gradkowski as things stand right now.

While not the run blocker he once was, Miller is still one of the better all-around tight ends in the league at 31 years of age. There is no reason to think that he can’t keep up his current level of play for at least two more season and should he make it three more season, even better.

  • Jason

    PFT reporting Tomlin is a candidate for Texas job. LOL. Who are Florio’s sources? That site is like a train crash I just can’t help but look.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    I want to extend him AND I want to get a top-3 round TE to play under/beside him. After Heath, there is WAY too big of a drop off in talent. Paulson is not the future.

    We need to groom a future TE and get a big-bodied WR to complement Wheaton and Brown. Thankfully, RB has been solved with Bell.

    And then there’s the defense…

  • SteelersDepot
  • Joe Longo

    Oh I hope that is true and he takes it!

  • Jason

    Sure did. Sorry

  • Jason

    Careful what you wish for

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    I respectfully disagree with this post. I like Heath, but those numbers are crazy. His salary going forward needs to come down, not go up. Given his health and age, he would not get anything close to $5m/year on the open market after 2014. You can’t give him above market value just to fix the 2014 problems. Guys over 30 are not getting those contracts anymore and the Steelers shouldn’t even be thinking about it.

  • Superdriller316

    Jace Amaro, Texas Tech. 1st team Big XII TE
    CJ Fiedorowicz, Iowa. 1st team Big 10 TE
    Arthur Lynch, Georgia. 1st team All Sec TE

    Lynch looks to be the best blocker, but doesn’t have to catches.

  • steeltown


  • steeltown

    No doubt, lock him up.

    People will look at those numbers and freak out, but they are what you pay for a proven high quality TE, even after the age of 30yrs old
    J.Witten is 31yrs old makes $7.2MIL on avg, and is signed through 2017 cost in cap value rises as the yrs pass. Antonio Gates is 33yrs old and makes around $6.6MIL on avg and even Tony Gonzalez at 37yrs old is making $7MIL a season.

    Jermichael Finley and Vernon Davis though not quite 30yrs old are also making over $7MIL a year on avg

    The way Bryan has it spelled out, the Steelers could release Miller if needed after 2015 for very minimal dean money hit

  • HopalongCassidy

    Exactly. While Heath may be a good blocker and receiver, his offensive value is limited by the fact that he is slow. He is no Gronk or Jimmy Graham. He makes a good outlet receiver now and again but he is no game breaker. Everyone around this site acts like the Steelers are still Super Bowl contenders and need to hang on to all of the vets even if it means overpaying for them. That is ridiculous. The Steelers are a below .500 team and need to rebuild, period. They need to clean up their salary cap problems, not add to them.

  • steeltown

    So you want to cut Miller and enter next season with Paulson as our #1 TE?

  • Chris Ranieri

    I’ve watched Lynch for years at UGA and I can tell you with some grooming I could see him being a great TE in the league. He is a smart player and like you said a better blocker, and is utilized in that regard heavily on the line. Great hands, great character; I could see him in the black and gold.

  • Superdriller316

    I like Lynch the best. Big plus to him is he won’t be a first round pick.

  • WilliamSekinger

    agree we should lock up Miller, but I think it’s time for a quality TE in the first 3 rounds. Yeah defense takes priority this year, but would love to see a young TE drafted somewhere in rounds 1-3.

  • Shea Fahr

    Extending Heath is a MUST..

  • WilliamSekinger

    Just posted the same thing above. Agree 100%

  • Shea Fahr

    He is a quiet and soft spoken Leader in that clubhouse too because the young ones watch the work he has put in.

  • steeltown

    No doubt

  • SteelersDepot

    You are reading WAY too much into the AYV, but that’s not surprising. Leaving his contract alone and tagging him after 2014 will cost a total of almost $14M. For $15M you lock him up, lower his 2014 cap hit & easily cut him after 2015 season with very little dead money involved if need be.

  • DrakePirate

    Cant agree more … i like Heath alot but those numbers are crazy .. his salary has to come down not up .. like u said, he wouldnt get close to that in the open market, not to mention using the leverage of the steelers organisation can place which i went into in more depth in another post … we need to start getting more hometown discounts from the players we can get them from … Heath wouldnt go anywhere and would gladly give a hometown discount of 1/million a yr to end his career in Pitt … we have done a terrible job leveraging the value of the Steelers organisation (which really does have a lot of value) … ike and troy’s salaries can be had for half next yr if the front office does the right thing …

    a top 2Rd TE … (athletic, big and fast) … get rid of Spaeth … rather have Dave Johnson as the 3rd TE … really liked what he has shown this season before he got injured.

  • steeltown

    You want Paulson, a rookie draft pick and the oft injured David Johnson filling out our TE depth chart?

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    Looking at it again, I think I underestimated it. A 2 year take of $15m is $7.5/year. Too much in my opinion.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    I want a roster that can field 53 nfl quality players and not be hamstrung by inflated salaries at the top of the payroll.

  • DrakePirate

    Not sure I understand cutting him after 2015, i think he’s got 3 good years left … are you saying cut him then pick him up for cheap for 2016 … ??
    not sure about his contract, but i think he’d stay for 5 mil a yr 4 yrs ( is that not possible contract wise ) ?

  • SteelersDepot

    You don’t have to cut him after 2015 if he is still playing at a high level. The key to doing any extension is the new guaranteed money over old. Ignore the final two years as those numbers really only pump up the AYV. What he gets in the first two years guaranteed is what really matters.

  • Elijah Stevenson

    It’s not true trust me

  • JohnnyV1

    Making Heath the #2 highest paid TE in football, in my opinion, is not where Heath is. There are generally an elite few of TE’s that operate way above all others. In past years, it was Tony Gonzalez & Antonio Gates. Current day it is Rob Gronkowski & Jimmy Graham. Then you have 2nd tier. Which includes Jason Witten, Heath Miller, Dennis Pita, Cameron Jordan, Greg Olsen, etc. I see those guys in the $4-6 million/yr. And let’s keep in mind 2013 FA period. How the big, overspending type deals dried up. How do you think CB Keenan Lewis gets a 5yr – $26 million deal w/ the Saints, which is not too far from Chad Scott & Dwane Washington contracts signed by the Steelers back in 2001!

    I love Heath Miller as a Steeler. He’s great on and off the field. I don’t want him to go anywhere. But his contract cannot be $7.5 million / yr, or K. Colbert if f’d in the head.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Mixed feelings here. Love the guy, as he blocks and catches and they would be in trouble without him. I get the contract part, lessoning the burden next year. But I would also want a home town discount as well. Maybe Heath can be convinced that he could get paid just a little less than market and still stick around to try to win.
    If not, then the Steelers would have to basically rebuild.

    The thing is I want all the vets to basically collude in order to have another opportunity to win a Super Bowl. Those 5-7 guys get the majority of the money and if they could all take a small cut, then the Steelers could afford quality replacements and backups.

    Gentlemen, would that be considered collusion on the part of the owners? If so, I still want the players to voluntarily take this step. I know, I know…… old school wishful thinking. Damn, let me call Ben myself!

  • HopalongCassidy

    No. I want to keep Miller but I would not overpay to do so. That is the difference. Do you think the Steelers are going to be Super Bowl material next year and that Miller will therefore be indispensable toward that quest ? As for Paulson, I wouldn’t even have him on the team, period.

  • Mike Carroll

    JSJ, agreed. I always appreciate your commentary regarding the Steelers salary cap management.

  • Intropy

    There’s also Austin Sefarian-Jenkins

  • Mike Carroll

    The AYV is very much relevant when that amount ($7.5M/yr) is guaranteed for the each of the first two years of the deal. That’s an increase of $1.5M in take home money for Heath next year and an additional $7.5M guaranteed for 2015, a season in which he turns 33. That’s too much for a player on the downside of his career. Tagging him should never be a consideration. And I consider a $4M dead money hit in 2015 to be a significant amount. The team could certainly use the extra $4M Colon’s old bloated contract will cost them in dead money next season.

  • Superdriller316

    Agree. Those are just my top three.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    Exactly. In 2015 when he turns 33, he is looking at $2-3M at best on the open market. That plus the $6M he is due next year = $8-9M over 2 years instead of $15M. If he takes $9M over 2014-2015, maybe you guarantee him the whole thing and extend him because it gives you some flexibility in 2014, Otherwise, you let him play it out and re-evaluate after 2014.

  • steeltown

    Agree with your last sentence

  • steeltown

    Understood, but without Miller and Spaeth we have no quality TE’s on roster, so you are sort of contradicting yourself, just saying

  • NW86

    I’m late to this conversation, but agree with Jefferson and Mike. I’m all for extending Heath to something reasonable, but his money – AYV or guaranteed – should not be going up. He made $6M/year on his current contract, when he was in his prime and 100% healthy. Now that he is 32 and had a knee surgery, it shouldn’t take $7.5M/year to keep him.

  • S. Gazer

    Tyler Eifert—-Tyler Eifert—Tyler Eifert!!!!!!!!!