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Steelers have limited options in signing new players

Byron Leftwich getting put on Injured Reserve doesn't free any cap space and his $2mm would count even if we cut him so that is that. And with the David Garrard release, final rosters and practice squads formed this post may help you shed light on the limited options we may have because we are still very tight on Salary Cap space.

The definition of a Credited Season ("CS") is different from an Accrued Season ("AS"). "CS" is used for salary purposes  and is a player who was on, or should have been on, full pay status for a total of three or more regular season games, but irrespective of the player’s  pay status, shall not include games for which this player was on:(i) Exempt Commissioner Permission List (ii) Reserve PUP List as aresult of a nonfootball injury (iii) Club’s Practice Squad ("PS") or (iv) Club’s Injured Reserve  ("IR") List. The Minimum Salary ("MS") Table below uses "CS" to determine player’s "MS."

           NFL Minimum Salary for Club's Active/Inactive ListNFL Minimum Salary

[all amounts in thousands(000s), CS = Credited Season(s)]

"AS" is used for determining benefits and is the same definition of "CS" except  you need six games instead of three and you to get credit for being on "IR." Accrued Seasons ("AS") are used to determine things like Termination Pay ("TP") or extended health insurance eligibility.

Let’s clear up one thing, as of now there has been zero interest for Dennis Dixon. Steelers gave him and four other of our Restricted Free Agent ("RFA") one year Qualifying Offer ("QO") Tenders. Dennis and his agent were free to negotiate with any club from July 29th to August 20, 2011. So why would anyone trade anything good for him now? Obviously, nothing came of his fishing expedition or he wouldn’t be here. Dennis was given the minimum $1.2mm RFA Tender in order for the Steelers to maintain the Right of First Refusal ("RFR"). "RFR" is the right to match any competing offers in case you didn’t know. In other words,  Steeler’s offer was enough to get "RFR" but not enough to be eligible for Draft Choice Compensation ("DCC") had another Club given him an Offer Sheet ("OS") we wouldn’t match. 

Notice he is still at $1.2mm so not only did no one want him as a starter they didn’t want him as a backup QB either, at least at $1.2mm. Dixon signed the Steeler’ one-year "QO" Tender as it was the only/best offer out there and it is pretty safe to assume there was no Salary guarantee offered. Please note that all "QO" Tenders for "RFA" are one-year contracts.  Dennis is a "RFA" because he has 3 or fewer "AS"s under his belt and assuming there are no guarantees contained in his contract we could cut him any time this year and have no further Salary or Cap liability for unearned Salary.

However, if we were to sign a veteran like David Garrard who has 4 or more "AS" and he is on the 1st game Roster then his total remaining unearned Salary for 2011 is automatically guaranteed. This is really Termination Pay ("TP") and not only do you have to pay it all but all of it counts for Cap purposes too. Unless you were to wait until after the 1st game to sign him then his "TP" liability would be much, much lower (25% of the unearned Salary or 1 week 10 year "CS" Minimum Salary, whichever is greater). So it makes total sense to sign "refugee" Veterans with 4 or more "AS" after the first game. (note: players are eligible only once in their NFL career for "TP") There is also another great way to sign Veterans with 4 or more "AS" (7 or more "AS" is ideal) and that is by using Qualifying Contracts ("QC"s).

In a Qualifying Contract ("QC"),  a player with 4 or more accrued seasons can sign a one year contract at the current "MS" for his "AS"s but only count against the Salary Cap in the amount of a two year "MS." However, under a QC contract, a player cannot make more than $50k Additional Compensation ("AC")  [Note: "AC" means things like signing bonuses or other guarantees like options or roster bonuses].  Also, Salary Guarantee cannot be greater than the two year "MS" ($525k for 2011). Dead monies hitting the cap this year must be added to a "QC" offer to see if it still fits the threshold.

Based on info in the media, Starks would not be eligible because he had $2mm dead money hitting this year, however, Flozell could qualify if he agrees to play for the "MS" plus $50k. In other words, Flozell could be re-signed for $910k salary and $50k signing bonus but only count $575k towards the Cap. The difference between the $910k and $525k is considered Minimum Salary Benefit ("MSB") or player benefit ("PB"). Obviously The Hotel is a bad example because if he wouldn't play for less than $5mm what leads me to believe he would play for $960k? There is one answer: desperation:). Flozell might not be desperate but there are many Veterans who are looking at their finances and realizing they can't retire yet and they want a ring. So they tell their agent: "MAKE THE CALL, I NEED THE MONEY BITCH!"

We may need to get tricky like this if we want to sign Veterans, remember Byron Leftwich just went on the Injured Reserve ("IR") List so he is gone for the season but his $2mm Salary Cap hit remains. Packers were very lucky last year, with fifteen players on "IR" they would have had real Salary Cap problems bringing in new players. In fact it is almost certain they would not have been able to win the Super Bowl with 15 on "IR" and stay under a $120mm cap.  Unfortunately for us last year was an uncapped year and I am sure it helped us too (just not as much), we could not have signed Flozell this year to a $5mm contract with our Cap Space this year. In fact we tried to get him for less than $5mm but he refused to take a pay cut.  But anyway, last year the Packers had a field day and could just keep activating new players to replace each one lost to "IR" with no Cap worries.  Right now we don’t have much Cap Space and it's always smart to  keep a little Cap Space free just in case there is an injury or a gift falls in your lap (like the Jets and Santonio).

I hope this article gave you some insight into potential Steeler moves and why we probably won’t sign any Veterans with more than 4 "AS"s until after the Ravens game unless a fabulous trade offer or other unforeseen option emerges.

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