The Steelers and all other NFL teams have until March 12th to get their 51 man roster under the salary cap. That process started on Tuesday with the Steelers working with the highest played player on the team.
Ben Roethlisberger is set to count a whopping $19.595 million against the cap this season. With the Steelers predicted to be anywhere between $10-14 million over the $122-123 million dollar cap, they will need some of their highest cap culprits to cooperate and restructure their contracts for this season. Lawrence Timmons will count $11.16 million against the cap and is also expected to reach some type of restructured deal.
ESPN is predicting that a restructuring of Big Ben and Timmons will save somewhere in the realm of $13 million. And while that gets the Steelers close to the mark , they have about half the team in free agency that they need to re-sign (no joke). They will still have difficult decisions to make by releasing players currently on contract and low balling free agency offers to others. Certainly more restructuring can take place – I’m looking at you James Harrison – that will help even more.
Restructuring is but one way to attack the salary cap issue, but it’s a costly one in the future. While the cap money is deflected from this season by giving players who participate more bonuses than salary, the difference is spread out across other seasons. This becomes problematic because it means there more cap hits to deal with in latter seasons. Do that several seasons in a row and you have a salary cap that’s more bloated than Lawrence Timmons after wing night.
It’s a necessary evil for the franchise, but it neither vilifies nor makes heroes out of the players. They still get their full amount of money over the remainder of their contract. It helps the team in the short term but places the burden later. You want a real hero in the salary cap game, find me a player who’s willing to take an outright pay cut for a season.
Roethlisberger is expected to finish the process by the end of the week.
Update: Lawrence Timmons actually got things off on the right foot first. PFT has reported as of 9:00 pm Tuesday that he has restructured his contract that will save the Steelers $5 million in cap space.