Today, Ben Roethlisberger became the highest-paid Pittsburgh Steeler ever, as well as one of, if not the highest, paid players in the NFL. NFL contracts being only slightly simpler to understand than the tax code, it’s unclear whether or not Ben has the absolute highest paying contract in the NFL, but he’s definitely up there. To be specific, $102 million over eight seasons, $36 million in guaranteed money, and a $25 million signing bonus. A lot of money, to be sure, but the way the NFL is going, it won’t seem as high in six years towards the end of Ben’s contract as it does now, and totally in line with what is expected for a franchise quarterback with a Super Bowl win who’s been playing at a level with the best of the best in the NFL this past year.
After years of mediocre quarterbacks in Pittsburgh, it’s great to know that the Steelers finally have an elite quarterback, and they’re going to have him for the long haul. Big Ben pulled the Steelers up on his back more than a couple times this season, and is more responsible for their successes this past season than any other player. As long as he’s playing in Pittsburgh, they’re going to be contending for the post-season, and if the right cast ends up around him, another Super Bowl ring or two.
This leaves the Steelers with only 2.4 million left under their salary cap, so they probably couldn’t have afforded to keep Alan Faneca, even if they wanted to. And they didn’t want to. He’s historically been one of the best at his position, but he slipped this past season, and the New York Jets will likely not improve their team by his addition relative to the $40 million they’re going to pay him. As great as Faneca has been, the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, to name two teams, have had great successes recently with relatively unknown guards. The bottom line is, Faneca won’t help the Jets make a Super Bowl run, and when you’re spending that kind of money, you want a player that helps make your team a Super Bowl contender. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Ironically, the player hurt the most by the lack of cap room is Ben Roethlisberger, who badly needs a couple better receivers and an improved offensive line. In a normal year, the Steelers wouldn’t get any big-name free agents because that’s simply not the way they do things; this could be the one year where they really can’t afford to get any big-name free agents.
In a related note, the Steelers may be a little smarter than we thought, because they’re preparing to remove the transition tag from Max Starks. They never intended to pay Starks a ton of money; they just put the tag on him to let him know that they didn’t want him to leave and to make it difficult for another team to make him an offer while they were negotiating.
On the other hand, Steelers management may be as dumb as we think they are, because they just re-signed Nate Washington, when the thing that would have helped the Steelers most would have been if Nate Washington became a free agent and signed to the Cleveland Browns.