Rumor has it that the Pittsburg Steelers are done trying to negotiate a contract extension for Ben Roethlisberger prior to the start of the 2014 season and will go at it again with his agent for 2015. That doesn’t sit will with many in Steeler Nation as this decision breaks ranks with how the Steelers front office traditionally does business with their quarterbacks they want to stick around…. especially for their franchise QB where both parties want a happy retirement party in a Steelers uniform.
Just because the Steelers have eluded to being done with negotiations for the time being, doesn’t mean we can’t speculate what a Big Ben new deal would look like. After the 49’ers Colin Kaepernick extension that took place on Wednesday, I believe that Roethlisberger’s new deal could be very similar in structure and makes sense when putting the type of QB Ben is into context.
After the Joe Flacco, Tony Romo, and Aaron Rodgers deals in 2013, every other QB in the league was thrust under the microscope. Could so and so get a deal like that? Well Romo gets that huge deal and has only done X (X= no SB ring), and so and so has done Y (Y= way more than Romo) – does that market demand then they get more money? Those three deals were huge and such game changers that it even made Warren Buffet’s piggy bank weep. Where do teams go from there and no kill their bank roll while still trying to maintain competitive. That, my friends, is the million dollar question… or is it $126 million question?
Overthecap.com has done a great writeup and breakdown of the Kaepernick deal, and it is truly fascinating. The deal as a whole at $126 million is huge. Huge for an NFL QB contract and huge when considering Kap is making more money than Aaron Rodgers but has yet to win a ring. The deal is rather revolutionary and might be the ‘new wave’ of how NFL teams negotiate contracts with their superstars.
This contract is heavily loaded with incentives and very little guaranteed money. There are roster bonuses, there are active status vs. injury bonuses, there are performance bonuses. All of which are not guaranteed unless met by whatever deadline each bonus maintains. Kap wanted a ton of cash and got it, but he gave up quite a bit to get it. That’s all within that guaranteed money that has players driving away in an armored vehicle as they leave the team office. He’s guaranteed less money than what Ben is getting in his last contract – under $30 million. Here’s what OTC had to say:
The full guarantee on the contract is around $13 million with $60 million being an injury only guarantee. Those injury guarantees vest on April 1 of each season. $12 million in total value is tied to per game active roster bonuses. $12 million in total value is tied to relatively high percentages of playing time or various honors or team success.
That’s just mind boggling at this day in age of how contracts within the NFL are structured. It’s very baseball’esque in it’s nature where playing percentage over a long season greatly impacts the overall payout.
So could Big Ben’s next deal look something like this? I say absolutely and why not? It completely benefits the Steelers, yet dangles the carrot in front of Ben to maybe the tune of $120 million (or even more). The injury clauses alone make a ton of sense. Ben is frequently injured over the course of the season, and when he is not on the field that hurts the Steelers’ chances of winning in a big way. This team would have gone 5-11 if he wasn’t around for a full 16 games last season and commanded the no huddle very well during that 6-2 run in the second half. He’s that good of a QB and he’s that impactful. Why should the Steelers pay him out if he doesn’t stay disciplined and get rid of the ball sooner and avoid some hits? Why should the Steelers be under the financial gun if the offensive line can’t do it’s job and protect their QB from 50+ sacks a season? Were something catastrophic to happen, and Ben blows a knee (knock on wood) or worse, thus ending his time as a Steeler, the team is protected and can use the clause’d money to find a replacement QB or advance the roster in other ways.
It may seem a little devious and underhanded, but it’s actually smart business… for both parties. Kap’s contract is backloaded, keeping the team from hurting now in trying to extend and sign other key players – something the Steelers will need as they look to extend Heyward, Allen, Pouncey (meh), and DeCastro in upcoming seasons. The backloaded contract would might appear to be a killer in the later years with larger payouts and bigger cap hits, but with those injury clauses, there’s a chance the team would never even owe that money. And if they do, it’s all just funny money anyways. They could restructure or ask for a hometown discount for that one last season in a Steelers uniform before he retires.
Is a guy like Kaepernick overpaid in a situation like this? Abso’freakin’lutely. But, what this does is pave the way for teams to reevaluate how they pay their big franchise players. It’s something the Steelers should consider when they finally get around to paying Big Ben. They may need this new way of dealing with contracts anyways if Ben has another personal best season and raises his financial ceiling another $10-15 million.