The Pittsburgh Steelers are now a few million dollars safely below the salary cap limit today after working to restructure the contract of fifth-year wide receiver Antonio Brown, which saved a little under $4 million in cap room.
It is presumed that the Steelers maxed out the restructured contract, converting $5,270,000 of Brown’s $6 million 2014 base salary down to the veteran minimum for his experience into a signing bonus, whose value now spreads out across the remaining four years on his contract.
In total, it should save $3,952,500 in cap space for the 2014 season while adding an additional $1,317,500 cap charge to the last three years left on Brown’s contract, which runs through the 2017 season.
Given Brown’s recent track record, which includes a 110-reception, 1499-yard, eight-touchdown season, I believe the Steelers feel quite comfortable carrying that added burden over the next three years with the belief that Brown’s production will more than justify it, though LaMarr Woodley serves as a cautionary tale.
Based on the numbers provided by Over the Cap, the Steelers entered the day $918,066 over the cap, meaning that they should now have $3,034,434 in cap space currently available to them, well within compliance for the beginning of free agency.
Expect more moves to come, however, with perhaps a pair of them coming down today. The Steelers are likely to restructure the contract of inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons before the beginning of free agency, which will provide a similar savings amount as that afforded through Brown’s restructured contract.
The other move, of course, will be an anticipated pay cut from the $7 million 2014 base salary due to cornerback Ike Taylor. It is unclear how much of a pay cut he will be asked to take, and how much he will agree to take, but it is believed to be in the $3-4 million range.
In the unlikely event that Taylor refuses a pay cut—which I personally highly doubt—the Steelers could save the full $7 million in both cap money and real money by terminating his contract, though it would put them at a notable disadvantage in terms of cornerback depth and cornerbacks with experience.
It’s been a long journey for the Steelers to get into cap compliance for the 2014 season, but thanks to the salary cap coming in at $6.7 million more than originally anticipated, it saved the team from making some potentially painful cuts.
The Steelers only released three players thus far, and the only one of any note was inside linebacker Larry Foote, who missed nearly all of last season with an injury and stood to be replaced by Vince Williams this year anyway.
Through those cuts and the other moves made, they were able to afford the $9.754 million transition tag due to outside linebacker Jason Worilds, which was the team’s top offseason priority.
Given that their main goal—keeping him off the free agent market—has already been accomplished before the beginning of free agency, I would say that things are looking up financially for the Steelers. Especially considering they don’t appear set to lose any valuable talent purely as a cap casualty this year, outside of possibly Woodley, who has vastly underperformed his contract.