Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons was the first current player to restructure their contract in 2013. Ben Roethlisberger is up next, and is expected to finish a deal by the end of the week. There are reports that other players – like LaMarr Woodley – could also find themselves restructuring their contract to free up salary cap space.
It’s a common practice as of late for the Steelers. Last season alone they restructured five of the big contracts on the books. Roethlisberger, Timmons, Woodley, Ike Taylor, and Willie Colon all restructured and deflected the salary cap hits to future seasons – like this upcoming one. This strategy is important to the Steelers because their philosophy is to develop drafted players then sign long term if they prove worthy of such a deal.
The Baltimore Ravens are the same way when it comes to the draft and the development of players. However, the Ravens (as reported by ESPN on Wednesday) have a far different approach when it comes to dealing with the salary cap and current contracts. The Ravens and GM Ozzie Newsome only use restructuring as ‘a last resort.’ They will release the dead weight first and bail water last. It helps keep future seasons a little more predicable in trying to figure out how much of a cap hit a team will have, but it doesn’t help in predicting the end game of that – will a team be under the cap. The NFL doesn’t release the exact salary cap number until March.
So which practice is better? The advantage for the Steelers is that it helps maximize the number of players they can keep on the roster without having to get send them packing. The assumption is all those players are worth keeping – a very subjective matter between Steeler fans and coaches. The disadvantage of restructuring deals is that the Steelers will continually have cap issues until they eventually cut all that salary out by releasing players. Think of it as the debt ceiling…. or don’t if you don’t want your head to spin and explode. The advantage for the Ravens is that they don’t have to worry about inflated cap numbers each and every season when they actually haven’t signed anyone to a new deal. It makes their contract negotiations a bit easier with free agents. The disadvantage is that they have to make the hard decision of who is more valuable to the team and who is worth losing in order to make more room for overrated players like Joe Flacco.
So what do you think is better? Is there evidence between the two franchises that tips the scale?