How Exactly Were the Steelers Able to Re-Sign Max Starks? A Closer Look at the CBA to try to Clear Up Misinformation

I think it was Rebecca Rollett who posed this question today, how did we do the Starks deal and it was reported by PFT that we had roughly $750k in cap space. I wanted to put our Salary Cap info together because it will help shed some light on why the FO has been so reticent to re-sign Starks or the Hotel. I put this information together because I believe it is the most accurate up-to-date information available outside of the Steeler organization. Sure I had to make a few guesses but I cross-referenced all the information so I should be very close (individual salaries will be off but the totals should be pretty accurate). 

The first thing I always say is that  there are numerous ways around the Salary Cap but the Steelers do not like to mortgage the future by paying signing bonuses to players they only want for one year. Starks is a perfect example, they don't want to commit to next year, they want flexibility, so it makes total sense that Starks was signed to a one year veteran minimum contract with very little if any signing bonus.

I also read a ton of incorrect information on other websites that are speculating but they do not really know what they are talking about. For example, we signed Max Starks today for $810,000 which is the veteran minimum for 7 to 9 credited seasons (see table below). Max has 7 credited seasons (this year will be 8) so that part of the math is right but some have speculated that Max could qualify for a "Qualifying Contract ("QC")."  A "QC" enables a team to save on salary cap because it allows you to sign a veteran with 4+ credited seasons but for cap purposes it only counts for the 2 year veteran minimum salary ($525k) with no more than $50k "Additional Compensation ("AC")".  In this case a "QC" would work for everything but the $4mm ($2mm this year and $2mm in 2012) in unamortized signing bonuses/guarantees (aka "dead $") from his earlier release.  This $4mm is not being re-negotiated  or rolled into a new contract with the $810k.  BUT, nevertheless, $2mm is clearly more than $50k "AC" so obviously Max is not eligible for a "QC." Below is the specific language from the current NFL CBA which precludes the Steelers from giving Starks a "QC":

 If the player’s prior contract was terminated, he is eligible to sign a Qualifying Contract if he does not earn more than maximum amount of Additional Compensation less the amount of any Additional Compensation and/or guaranteed Salary earned during that League Year under the terminated years of his prior contract(s), but his combined compensation from the terminated contract(s) earned for that League Year and the Qualifying Contract cannot exceed the applicable minimum for that League Year plus the maximum amount of Additional Compensation.

I mean it's not even close because a "QC" can have max $50k between terminated contracts and the new contract. Plus, you cannot have total guarantee(s) greater than $525k between the old and new contract. Dead $ by definition is guaranteed money and we still sit with $2mm of Starks dead $. I know I am going a little far to prove someone wrong here but I hate bad information being passed around by marginal Steeler blogs! Here is the original tweet from Gerry Dulac and it is stating a fact:

 

Gerry Dulac

The  gave Max Starks a one-year deal for the veteran minimum of $810,000.

18 hours ago via Twitter for iPhone 

Now look at the Steeler's Depot Dave Bryan's speculation [link here]: DB@Steelers Depot about the "QC" and I quote:

"The contract is believed to have included ad $50k signing bonus in addition. The new Starks contract should only count $575,000 against the cap per the discount for signing veteran players to one-year minimum deal."

Now Starks may very well get a $50k bonus, that is quite possible but it is impossible to fit it into a "QC."  Clearly this Steeler blogger does not really have a thorough understanding of the new CBA, so beware of the salary cap data and 'analysis' posted there. When you front like you really know BUT have no idea, then I have a problem with that. I may be many things but I am not flying off the cuff here, If I don't know I will tell you straight up "I DON'T KNOW!"

That is the reason this BTSC Blog is a much better product, people back up their opinions and there is too much knowledge here to be a poser. So when you are looking at salary cap information elsewhere keep that in mind. There is no website that I am aware of  that can give you even 80% accurate salary cap information. 

 

                                         NFL Minimum Salary for Club's Active/Inactive List

NFL Minimum Salary

 

It's too bad Max can't qualify for a "QC" because Steelers FO love these QCs, they currently have 8 "QC"s out of our 53 man Roster which is saving us roughly $1.83mm in cap space. It makes sense, to a team with many veterans "QC"s are a huge advantage ("QC"s are of little use to Tampa Bay whose average player age is 25).  If you notice I crossed out the base salary of the eight players who have "QC"s to make it easy to see how much we are saving. With that said, in certain cases I guessed that most of these "QC"s do have $50k in additional compensation. I also made sure that all base salaries are at least paying the league minimum.

Now when you look at the Team Salary table below there are a couple of things you should know. For one, Chris Scott is only starting his second year so upon his release he probably has less than $50k potential dead $. But notice I used $450k base salary instead of his 2011 Cap Figure, this is because the amount above his base salary is almost certainly un-amortized signing bonus/guaranteed $ which turns into dead $ upon his release. Yea, I know it's small but right now the numbers show we have less than $600k in Cap Space. Chris Scott does not have 4 or more accrued seasons because that (and being on Roster day 1 of the season) automatically guarantees your full salary if cut  aka "Termination Pay" ("TP").  Bottom line, cutting a veteran with 4 or more accrued seasons is pretty stupid, not only do you have to find a Roster replacement but you have that much less cap space to do it.

Just look how limited you are in clearing  cap space. I listed the players from our 53 man Roster who are potential cap casualties that are not eligible for "TP".  Look closer, all the rookies (R) got signing bonuses and almost all rookie contracts were fully guaranteed in 2011 so that would not clear any cap room. If you narrow it down further, there are probably less than 10 players of 53 you could cut to clear cap space. I mean you don't want to cut Pouncey do you ?

And if you want to cut a "QC" then you have to "repay" the cap discount you are getting now so that is a double-whammy. So you see there is a lot of moving parts if you want to give Jonathan Scott his walking papers, remember dead $ is dumb $. There is nothing worse than cutting a player and eating his salary cap hit. I am no Steve Jobs (R.I.P. master baller) but that doesn't sound like a great idea to me, does it? Yet I have seen many call for J. Scott's head this week. If only it were that simple "Get the HOTEL in here, money is no object!"

2011 Steelers with less than four Accrued Seasons

Player Seasons Base Salary  2011 Salary Cap Hit
Rashard Mendenhall 4 $612,500 $1,979,000
Dennis Dixon 4 $1,200,000 $1,200,000
Evander  "Ziggy"  Hood 3 $600,000 $1,629,000
Mike Wallace 3 $525,000 $708,000
Keenan Lewis 3 $525,000 $685,000
David Johnson 3 $525,000 $581,000
Doug Legursky 3 $525,000 $525,000
Jamon Merideth 3 $600,000 $600,000
Ramon Foster 3 $525,000 $573,000
Ryan Mundy 3 $525,000 $525,000
Maurkice Pouncey 2 $450,000 $6,520,000
Jason Worilds 2 $450,000 $925,000
Emmanuel Sanders 2 $450,000 $645,000
Stevenson Sylvester 2 $450,000 $489,000
Jonathan Dwyer 2 $450,000 $476,000
Antonio Brown 2 $450,000 $474,000
Issac Redman 2 $450,000 $450,000
Steve McLendon 2 $450,000 $450,000
Cameron Heyward R $375,000 $1,218,000
Marcus Gilbert R $375,000 $587,000
Curtis Brown R $375,000 $505,000
Cortez Allen R $375,000 $473,000
Chris Carter R $375,000 $416,000
Weslye Saunders R $375,000 $376,000

And we are very tight with the Salary Cap because we have dead money totalling $2,970,446 in 2011 ($2mm from Max and remainder ARE, Sweed & Crezdon). And as you see below the $3mm transition Salary Cap amount that can be borrowed from future years was used from the beginning (the FO designates 3 players @ $1mm apiece who have 5 or more accrued seasons) because we clearly needed it just to be around $750k under the cap.

We don't know which three contracts the FO reduced by $1mm but it doesn't matter to us, it comes out in the wash:) Keep in mind, we also have the three on IR with total salary of $5,086,628 which still count in full to the Salary Cap. To sum it up dead$ of almost $3mm, IR of roughly $5.1mm and the FO is working with a Salary Cap which is based on the previous CBA 2009 Revenue Split. So, you see you can always get around the Cap but in this case it is like pulling impacted wisdom teeth, dentists can't do it you need an oral surgeon:)

If there are any cap questions feel free to ask and I will answer if I know it. What I won't do is give you answer when I do not know!

2011 Pittsburgh Steelers Team Payroll

Player Seasons Base Salary  2011 Salary Cap Hit
Ben Roethlisberger 8 $6,000,000 $11,320,000
Troy Polamalu 9 $6,400,000 $9,038,000
LaMarr Woodley 5 $1,100,000 $7,700,000
Casey Hampton 11 $3,910,000 $7,077,000
Maurkice Pouncey 2 $450,000 $6,520,000
Aaron Smith 13 $4,500,000 $6,100,000
Lawrence Timmons 5 $1,000,000 $5,379,000
James Harrison 8 $1,250,000 $5,366,000
James Farrior 15 $2,825,000 $3,825,000
Ike Taylor 9 $1,250,000 $3,813,000
Heath Miller 7 $1,000,000 $3,797,000
Hines Ward 14 $3,000,000 $3,610,000
Ryan Clark 10 $1,000,000 $2,250,000
Larry Foote 10 $2,400,000 $3,000,000
Chris Kemoeatu 7 $1000,000 $2,685,000
Brett Keisel 10 $1,000,000 $2,675,000
Bryant McFadden 7 $2,500,000 $2,667,000
Rashard Mendenhall 4 $612,500 $1,979,000
Evander "Ziggy" Hood 3 $600,000 $1,629,000
Will Allen 8 $1,265,000 $1,590,000
Arnaz Battle 9 $1,037,500 $1,363,000
Jonathan Scott 6 $800,000 $1,300,000
Cameron Heyward R $375,000 $1,218,000
Dennis Dixon 4 $1,200,000 $1,200,000
Shaun Suisham 7 $810,000 $1,148,000
Jason Worilds 2 $450,000 $925,000
Mike Wallace 3 $525,000 $708,000
Keenan Lewis 3 $525,000 $685,000
Emmanuel Sanders 2 $450,000 $685,000
David Johnson 3 $525,000 $581,000
Doug Legursky 3 $525,000 $525,000
Jamon Merideth 3 $600,000 $600,000
Ramon Foster 3 $525,000 $573,000
Ryan Mundy 3 $525,000 $525,000
Marcus Gilbert R $375,000 $587,000
Daniel Sepulveda 5 $685,000 $685,000
William Gay 5 $685,000 $575,000
Greg Warren 7 $810,000 $685,000
Trai Essex 7 $685,000 $685,000
Jerricho Cotchery 8 $810,000 $600,000
Mewelde Moore 8 $810,000 $575,000
Chris Hoke 10 $910,000 $575,000
Charlie Batch 14 $865,000 $935,000
Curtis Brown R $375,000 $505,000
Chris Scott 2 $450,000 $497,000
Stevenson Sylvester 2 $450,000 $489,000
Jonathan Dwyer 2 $450,000 $476,000
Antonio Brown 2 $450,000 $474,000
Cortez Allen R $375,000 $473,000
Issac Redman 2 $450,000 $450,000
Steve McLendon 2 $450,000 $450,000
Chris Carter R $375,000 $416,000
Weslye Saunders R $375,000 $376,000
Willie Colon 5 (IR) $1,500,000 $2,700,000
Byron Leftwich 9 (IR) $1,750,000 $2,000,000
Baron Batch R (IR) $375,000 $387,000
- 2011  additional Cap (borrowed from future cap) $ (3,000,000)
+ Dead Money $ 2,741,000

 

Total Team Salary (10/4/2011)  $ 119,527,000
2011 Maximum NFL Salary Cap $ 120,375,000
Steeler's available Cap (10/4/2011) $ (848,000)

 

Less Chris Scott waived $ (497,000)
Add Max Starks (13 of 17 wks * $810k) $ 619,000
 Total Team Salary (10/5/2011)
$119,649,000

 

add Dead$ (C. Scott 2010 signing bonus)

$47,000
New Steeler 2011 Dead $ Total

$2,788,000
Steeler estimated Team Salary 

119,696,000
Steeler estimated Salary Cap space available  $ (679,000)
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