Steelers salary cap projections: breaking down the next five years on the Steelers roster

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

The Steelers salary cap, from 2013 to 2017, from Antonio Brown to Ziggy Hood, is covered here.

Everyone wants a pony for Christmas, but no one ever considers what is involved in keeping one. Steeler Nation is about to find itself in a unique position at the end of this season. We're about to realize we've been getting ponies for Christmas every year, sometimes multiples. We are about to peer out the kitchen window, and find a field full of hungry horses.

Granted, they are not always ponies, per se. We have a couple Clydesdales, in Ramon Foster and Doug Legursky. A pair of Stallions in Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall are stomping their hooves, ready to run. Three Thoroughbreds named Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, and Keenan Lewis are eyeing the fence, contemplating greener pastures. It's not that these horses are unhappy with their living conditions; but when ponies grow into horses, their appetites grow into problems.We also have a few older mares looking at the end of the trail. They might make it through one more ride, maybe two; but they won't live forever.

WARNING: Speculation ahead

Consider this post to be that kitchen window. I've compiled player salary information, and tried to sift through the numbers. I tried to find out if it's possible to feed all those horses a fair and plausible amount, on a fixed income. My findings were both optimistic, and depressing. I left brevity at home for this post; and it would be best viewed on a PC; allowing you to open the tables in new tabs for easier reading. [Each table is linked to open in a new tab/window] However, I will be going through my math in detail, so you may not need to see the tables to hear what the numbers are saying. I will attack each year individually, as moves made in the off-season affect every subsequent season.

I've run this model a few times, but ran into roadblocks along each way, forcing me to start from scratch. What you're about to read, is what I considered the "best" path, through the 2017 season. [It's a long post. I won't take it personally if some of you don't get through the whole thing] Here is what our situation looked like as of this, the 2012 season [The players age indicated on the chart is the players age at the end of the current season]:

Steelersalaries_zps420d9aa5_medium

The numbers on these charts represent the players total salary cap hit per season. This is not what the player is getting paid for that season. Any bonuses players receive are paid to the player up front, or at designated times. The team is allowed to prorate that money equally across the length of the contract, for cap reasons. If a players is receiving a base salary of 5 million, but a 15 million dollar signing bonus; that single year would cost 20 million against the cap. I'm sure a team could attribute an entire bonus to a single year's cap; but that is very unlikely.

The column on the far right represents the amount of bonus money allocated per season in a players contract. For example: If the number is 3 million, that means that 3 million dollars per season represents bonus money paid to the player. This number sometimes changes, as contracts age. When you see a year in brackets, this designates a change in the bonus money attributed. The year represents the season the new amount becomes correct. For example: 2,000,000 [2016] 450,000 means in 2016, only 450,000 dollars of a players cap hit is related to bonus money he had already received; as opposed to the 2 million allocation in every previous season. If a player is cut, his non-guaranteed, base salary is cleared from the ledger, but the bonus money left becomes dead money. Dead money is money held against a team's total salary as a penalty for cutting a player before their contract had expired. When teams cut players after June 1st, they are allowed to split that penalty in half; taking half in the current year, and the other half in the following year.

General Managers use every single dollar of the cap to supply their teams with as much quality talent as is possible. For this post, I will be hijacking the Steelers' front office. I will offer new deals, and restructure old deals, as I see fit to be in the best interest of the team. However, I will also be evaluating players based on the general consensus of Steeler Nation, as represented by the posts and comment threads of Behind The Steel Curtain. I will take both sides of every argument over every player in mind, when I present each case. The goal is for everyone to get what they want. If this isn't the point of it all, then why ask for ponies in the first place.

Before I go any further, I want to be very clear. I am not a salary cap expert. I'm sure there are some that will read this post that know more on the situation than I do. This post is intended for discussion fodder. If I make a mistake, feel free to point it out. I'd rather be wrong and learn the truth, than insist I'm right in idiocy. I set rules for myself based on my limited knowledge. As I researched this post, I got mixed results as to specific details of the new CBA. I used everything I did learn to compile these figures.

My research was unclear as to the use of what is called a "roster bonus", which is a single, time-oriented payment. Teams used this tactic in the past to move parts of a player's contract to a season that was more cap-friendly. However, I read several suggestions that roster bonuses were lumped in with signing bonuses under the new CBA, stretching that money across the contract, instead of pertaining to a single season. I could be incorrect, which would be fine by me. This would be a trick open to GM's as they try to offer competitive salaries, while balancing the books from year to year. I did not use this trick, though; not for this exercise.

The new CBA permits signing bonuses to be spread across the first five years of a contract. I am unsure if you are allowed to allocate bonus money, say, to 4 years of a 5 year deal. To be safe I spread every dollar as far as I was allowed. I ended up needing every inch.

Restructure. This word was tossed about this past off-season as multiple players restructured their deals, to make more cap room. To those who aren't sure what that means, let me explain it now; as this is something that will become regular practice if we decide to try and keep all these ponies we've been accumulating. The CBA allows money from a players base salary [which is not guaranteed] to be converted into bonus money [referred to as guaranteed money] which is spread across up to five years of the contracts length. The player is not surrendering any money. The only place that money moved, was on a salary cap budget sheet. There is little danger to a player in restructuring. In fact, it's actually an advantage, as it adds to the penalty enforced on teams, should they cut the player prematurely.

Obviously, I was forced into assumption over some issues. I will explain my reasoning in each case. I attempted to envision each player's role in the future. I based all of my decisions on what we have seen so far. This is why I wouldn't call this post a projection, as players performance will differ. Some get better. Some get worse. Players suffer untimely injuries. Players are traded for draft picks. Players walk to Wal-Mart, and Drive While-Intoxicated. So many things can happen, that are impossible to foresee. The names on these charts will date the charts themselves. Chris Carter and Alameda Ta'amu are included, though one is on the Practice Squad, and the other is injured; whileMarshall McFadden and David Gilreath are not, though they are on the active roster. The Salary Cap, which was 120.6 million dollars this year, is made up of the top 51 salaries on a roster. The 2 lowest are ignored, as are the practice squad contracts. The Salary Cap is a fluid thing, and it fluctuates every year; as it is based on numerous variables. For this exercise, I held the cap at the same number for each season. Should the Cap actually go up; then we have extra space. If the Cap should lower, then the FO will have a few more pennies to pinch.

Because I kept the cap level equal across the board, I did the same with the rookie wages. The new CBA all but dictates the rookie pay scale now. Because it's impossible to know where we will draft from season to season, I used this current season's salaries for each season. We drafted in the lower half of the draft, therefore our salaries are lower than the mean compared to the league. Some would argue that I should have used a 15th pick level rookie scale; but I believe the purpose of this exercise is to keep our championship team a contender. I expect us to draft low every season, especially those that result in Lombardis. In all speculations, I always overestimate the mean. This moves the 50/50 percentile into your favor, turning some of your odds of failure, into odds of success. It also prevents you from trying to get too specific, considering the actual front office will have a lot more tricks up their sleeves, than I do. I tried to be generous, while cautious; Loyal, yet realistic.

2013: Players under Contract: 35

Team Salary: 128,617,001

How do you like that? First day on the job, and I'm already in trouble. I'm 18 players shy of a full roster, but I'm already 8 million dollars over the cap. Some how, I'm supposed to offer new contracts to Mike Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall, and Keenan Lewis. I have some Restricted Free Agents, that I have to offer tenders or contracts to, or cut. I have aging players consuming major chunks of cap allowance, while contributing limited playing time/performance due to injury. Before I can sign any new contracts, I have to get below the cap. I have to make 8 million dollars disappear, plus I have to clear enough space for 18 players. Even if I signed 18 undrafted free agents making league minimum [390,000 first year], I would still have to clear 7.02 Million in addition to the 8 I'm already over, for a total of 15.02 million.

Remember how I said to get used to the word Restructure? This is the easiest way to clear cap room in the current season, so we will start there.

Ben Roethlisberger: 7 Million saved [10.5 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: [2013] 11,600,000 [2014] 12,100,000 [2015] 11,600,000

Original Bonus Money: [2013] 8,995,000 [2014, 2015] 3,795,000

Original Cap Hit: [2013] 20,595,000 [2014] 15,895,000 [2015] 15,395,000

New Base Salary: [2013] 1,100,000 [2014] 12,100,000 [2015] 11,600,000

New Bonus Money: [2013] 12,495,000 [2014, 2015] 7,295,000

New Cap Hit: [2013] 13,595,000 [2014] 19,385,000 [2015] 18,895,000

Once a player's bonus money has been allocated to a season, it cannot be moved. Restructures only turn Base salary into Bonuses, not the other way around. I am not sure how low you are allowed to reduce a player's contract to; but considering that players like Ben played for a base salary of 900,000 this season, I'm sure it's pretty low. I limited myself to a minimum of 500,000. Again, to those concerned that a veteran player won't want to play for 500,000 dollars, they didn't give up any money; in fact they already received it. The restructure allows the team to charge the rest of the money to all the years on the contract, for cap purposes alone.

In Ben's case, I took 10.5 Million of his base salary, and converted it into 3.5 million in bonus money against each of the 3 seasons remaining on this contract. His new base salary for 2013, is 1.1 million. Add that to the 8,995,000 bonus money already attributed to this season, plus the 3.5 million dollar bonus resulting from the restructure. The new number is 13,595,000, Subtracting this new cap hit, from the old cap hit of 20,595,000 shows that we saved 7 million dollars against 2013's cap by adding 3.5 million to 2014, and 2015.[For the rest of the restructures, I will focus on the 2013 effects. See the chart at the end of the section to see how these restructures affect future years.]

Willie Colon: 3 Million Saved [4.5 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 5,500,000

Original Bonuses: 2,150,000

Original Cap Hit: 7,650,000

New Base Salary: 1,000,000

New Bonuses: 3,650,000

New Cap Hit: 4,650,000

LaMarr Woodley: 6 Million Saved [8 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 9,000,000

Original Bonuses: 4,240,000

Original Cap Hit: 13,240,000

New Base Salary: 1,000,000

New Bonuses: 6,240,000

New Cap Hit: 7,240,000

Lawrence Timmons: 3 Million Saved [4 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 5,375,000

Original Bonuses: 3,285,000

Original Cap Hit: 11,160,000

New Base Salary: 1,375,000

New Bonuses: 6,785,000

New Cap Hit: 8,160,000

Troy Polamalu: 3.2 Million Saved [6.4 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 7,500,000

Original Bonuses: 2,887,500

Original Cap Hit: 10,387,500

New Base Salary: 1,100,000

New Bonuses: 6,0875,000

New Cap Hit: 7,187,500

In my early attempts, I also restructured the contracts of Ike Taylor, James Harrison, and Heath Miller. However, within a year or two, the repercussions of keeping Harrison and Taylor caught up with us, forcing a baseball like fire-sale of too many other key players. I was able to keep Miller's contract intact, without changing it. Harrison and Taylor, however, had to be released to make it all work.

Had I restructured Taylor's contract, I would have saved 2.5 Million against this year's cap, but added 2.5 Million to 2014, which already stands at 10,454,166. By releasing him after June 1st, his penalties in 2013 and 2014 increase to 3.5 Million; but I saved around 6 Million on 2013, and 7 million in 2014. Considering the number of new contracts I want to offer, I chose this option.

Harrison's situation was very similar. The biggest thing that separates the two players is their health. Taylor was a hard cut, because he still plays at a high level. Harrison, as much as I love him, is just a shadow of his former self. His cap hits for 2013 and 2014 are too high for the type of production he is able to contribute. I did Harrison the personal favor of releasing him, but I ate his entire cap penalty in 2013. Had I restructured his deal, I could've saved 2.7 Million against 2013, while adding 2.7 to 2014. Instead, by releasing him, I saved 5.1 Million this year, with no cap penalty in 2014.

I also released Brett Keisel. I didn't want to, as I feel he is still playing well; but the cap space is necessary. Plus, Cameron Heyward's rookie deal will expire soon, and we need to know what we have in him before we have to offer him more money. If he's not the RE of the future, then we will need to let him walk, and draft someone else. Brett's release created a 2013 penalty of 1.675 Million, but saved 2.875 Million against the cap. Every penny was needed.

Now for the controversial part: the New Contracts. This is the part most folks have been arguing since last off-season. Who can we offer contracts to? How much can we offer them? How much are they actually worth? Players like Wallace split Steeler Nation into separate camps, as some feel he has earned what he feels he is worth; while others feel he needs to stay on the cheap. Again, I tried to find the mean, then overestimate it; as I did with all the new contract speculations. A player may not demand their entire potential worth to stay with their current team, but the offer still has to be lucrative enough so that they are not tempted to stray. These are the numbers I came up with. [Check the 2013 chart below to see the actual year-to-year breakdown of each contract.]

New Contract Offers:

Mike Wallace: 5 yrs, 50 Million [15 Million Signing Bonus]

Rashard Mendenhall: 5 yrs, 35 Million [9 Million Signing Bonus]

Emmanuel Sanders: 5 yrs, 30 Million [6 Million Signing Bonus]

Keenan Lewis: 5 yrs, 30 Million [5 Million Signing Bonus]

Jonathan Dwyer: 5 yrs, 20 Million [5 Million Signing Bonus]

Doug Legursky: 5 yrs, 15 Million [2 Million Signing Bonus]

Ramon Foster: 5 yrs, 15 Million [2 Million Signing Bonus]

Steve McLendon: 5 yrs, 15 Million [2 Million Signing Bonus]

David Johnson: 4 yrs, 3.25 Million [600K Signing Bonus]

DeMarcus Van Dyke: 3 yrs, 4 Million [900K Signing Bonus]

Will Allen: 2 yrs, 3.6 Million [No Signing Bonus]

Max Starks: 1 yr, 1 Million [No Signing Bonus]

Byron Leftwich: 2 yrs, 1.5 Million [500K Signing Bonus]

Greg Warren: 2yrs, 2 Million [No Signing Bonus]

I have no idea if there are limits to the amount of increase a salary can see from year to year. When the old CBA expired, there was a 30% increase limit when uncapped years were involved. I don't believe this is the case now. As I sorted through hundreds of contracts for players around the league, it certainly didn't feel like there was an increase limit stipulation. For this post, I acted as if no restriction existed. This allowed me to hike up second years on some deals, anticipating the need to restructure these contracts every season, to make everyone fit. I kept first years as low as possible, because I don't believe you can restructure a deal within 12 months of its signing. The restructure has to be figured in from day one. However, I tried to make sure that each player signing a new deal was making more than they had in 2012. Salaries rise and fall from year to year, but everyone wants to know that they're getting a raise. [Remember, the amounts for each year include the bonus allocations. To find the base salary, subtract the bonus amount for that year, from the total amount.]

I don't actually expect these to be the new deals offered to these players. As I said before, this is not a projection or prophecy; just a best case scenario. I am assuming that players will take these deals to stay here, rather than take more to go elsewhere. I am assuming players who were once starters, will be willing to give way to younger guys. I gave Max Starks a one year deal to keep solid depth along the line, though I expectMarcus Gilbert and Mike Adams to start next season. As with Heyward, we have to know what we're getting from Gilbert before his contract expires, or we will be forced to move on. The same can be said for Adams.

Why, yes. You did see David Johnson's name on this list. Leonard Pope will be 30 yrs. old when 2012 comes to an end. I don't see the Steelers offering him a long term commitment, especially not at 3rd TE. David Johnson has been with this team for a long time, and it would not surprise me to see DJ come to camp in the off-season and win back the 3rd TE job. Even if they sign Pope instead, or draft a TE, the money allocated in my plan accommodates any player of a similar talent level, to play a similar role.

I kept Byron Leftwich over Charlie Batch because of age. Batch will be 38 at the end of 2012, while Byron will only be 33. I would move Batch to a coaching or assistant's position, while keeping Leftwich for experienced insurance. I also kept Greg Warren because one does not simply find a longsnapper that solid, regardless of his age. I would love to see another position player converted into a longsnapper to save the roster space, but this hasn't happened yet, and I don't expect it to anytime soon.

I offered DVD a deal, because he is a RFA this season. I don't know that many teams are after him, considering he wound up here when Oakland released him. The minimum tag [per my research] is 1.26 Million. The only protection that offers a team, is right to match. No compensation is involved. At this point, I figured it was better to give him a small deal; which saved a couple bucks against 2013, while providing depth through 2015. I used the same reasoning with Dwyer's deal. A low level tender would only give us the right to match. A high compensation tender stands at 2.74 million; though from a business sense, it feels a bit high for a 6th round pick, backup running back. He could be an asset here for a long time, so I gave him a deal instead of a tender, with the most money coming in the last couple seasons, because he will most likely become the top back eventually; but as long as Mendenhall is here, Rashard will be the primary back. Because of this slant in his year-to-year salary, he makes good coin for being a reserve, leaves no chance for another team to steal him, and saves money versus the 2.74 tender most GM's would've given him.

I realize I gave Ramon Foster, Doug Legursky, and Steve McLendon the same deals. I wasn't really sure how to handle these 3. We don't want any of them to leave, as they have all been solid in their spot appearances. Foster is part of one of the best o-lines we've had in a while; yet he won't be considered a starter once David DeCastro returns for good. To keep these players here for a while, I had to offer them something in between reserve-level and starter-level. I lumped McLendon in with this group, because we have no idea what NT will look like once Hampton retires at the end of this season. McLendon could be the starter for the next 5 years; or he may be a career backup. There is no way to know. Alamed Ta'amu may turn things around, and develop into our next NT. If this happened, but we had already given starter money to McLendon, then what happens? These are the pitfalls I tried to avoid, but they are bound to happen. It's not so much a bad thing when the younger player exceeds the veteran, as the younger guy is always cheaper. However, depending on the size of the bonus you gave the veteran dictates how much of a cap penalty you will incur for being wrong. [Speaking of Hampton, you'll notice I allocated 2 draft picks to the ends, but no new NT. With Keisel released, a backup will be needed at RE. Ziggy Hood and Al Woods will see their contracts expire at the end of 2013. If neither are retained long term, it would be nice to have an experienced reserve in place when a starter is drafted.]

Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall were the two toughest guesstimations. My instincts tell me we can't afford both of those contracts, while also paying decent deals to 2 other receivers, and one other running back. However, as I said before, this post is about seeing if everybody can get what they want. Only time will tell if we can afford both of these guys along with everyone else. As you think about my releasing of Harrison, Taylor, and Keisel in disdain, remember this was the only way to get everyone else under contract. If a Wallace or Mendenhall is allowed to walk, maybe at least one of these guys are able to stick around. However, considering the ages of everyone in question; I went with the younger players as a higher priority. Wallace, for example, has had numbers attached to him from 30 million through at least 70 million. I figure there will be at least one team willing to offer him one of the high amounts, meaning it will take at least 50 Mil for him to even consider staying here, whether we feel his play warrants that kind of paycheck or not. I tried to leave personal feelings out of this, since I am the only person making the decisions here. This was one of the few cases where, to me, the mean was overestimating the mean because we don't need him, we just want him, know what I mean?

The biggest problem facing the Steelers' front office is Bonus Money. Everyone wants cash in hand, and lots of it. However, because everyone wants a big contract, and knowing the FO will have to restructure numerous deals, year after year; bonuses will have to be kept as small as possible. Those players seeking large bonuses because of the job security they provide will have to be made aware that each time their deal is restructured, the amount of job security increases. It becomes more and more difficult to release a player when their "dead money" climbs closer to their contract amount. Restructuring deals doesn't make the money disappear, it pays the money out to the player and credits that amount towards future years. As we go year to year, keep an eye on the bonus money column in each year's chart. You will see how those amounts perpetually grow with each restructure. If these players were started with high bonus amounts, restructuring would be impossible.

When it comes to Rookie contracts, as I stated before, I kept them the same across the board. Should the cap rise, or fall, so will the rookie scale; meaning they would still fit. You will see them on the following chart in various positions on the team. This does not mean I feel this is where the draft pick will be spent. They had to be figured into each year's cap, therefore had to be included. The spots they appear in are simply positions vacated by leaving players. I did not track practice squad players, as their salaries are not counted against the cap. I put one pick in Charlie Batch's spot, but I don't think we waste a pick on a late round QB. Chances are that pick will be spent elsewhere, and a FA will be brought in. The money I allocated there, however; should cover the FA, while the player actually drafted with that pick, will most likely make the Practice Squad at a completely different position. Same goes for the SS I have slotted as the first pick. That doesn't mean I think they draft one with the first pick, but finding a SS will be the higher priority.

This chart represents the "big picture" of 2013. Red figures indicate Restructured deals. Green figures indicate Rookie deals. Blue figures indicate new deals to old players. As you can see, when it's all said and done; our cap figure for 2013 ends up at 120,561,224. However, take a look at the following years. Suddenly, starting a year only 8 Million over the cap doesn't seem so bad, does it? Looking at the Restructured deals sub-totals, you'll see how much of a jump those contracts will take the following season, because of the restructuring.

Steelersalaries2013-1_medium

Even though I released James Harrison, but kept Troy Polamalu; I would put drafting a SS at a higher priority than ROLB, for this reason: We already have 3 other linebackers on the roster. We will have to know what we have in Jason Worilds, Chris Carter, andAdrian Robinson, before we start selecting draft picks to place ahead of them. 2013 is Worilds last year on his current contract, while Carter's ends after 2014. I can see taking a 3rd round pick for depth at OLB, but I would hold off on drafting a permanent player until 2015. I draft the SS now so he can understudy Troy and Ryan Clark for a season, before being forced into a starting role. Perhaps Larry Foote could have been retained for a Max Starks level one-timer; but even with his experience, I often am left feeling like we could still do better. This is why I let him walk, and drafted a 2nd round ILB instead. Though the coaches may not show the same confidence in Sean Spence and Stevenson Sylvester.

Players Leaving in 2013: Charlie Batch, Isaac Redman, Leonard Pope, Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, James Harrison, Brandon Johnson, Larry Foote, Ike Taylor, Ryan Mundy

2014: Players under Contract: 47

Team Salary: 159,969,383

As we move forward, please keep this in mind. As I reevaluate players each season, I am basing my evaluations on what I have seen from them on the field. They may be practice kings; but gamedays are the only ones that matter. We lost a lot of guys in 2013 that had started at least once in their careers as Steelers. Some would argue we lost some future HOF'ers. Unfortunately, the salary cap and Father Time work together to prevent our favorite players from staying here forever. While players like Hampton and Harrison may have wanted to stay, their bodies were ready for retirement. The Ikes were the most difficult departures. Redman has proven his worth time and time again; as has Taylor. However, age prevents Redman from holding a priority over his 2 younger stable mates. Taylor's biggest problem is that the FO never imagined they would have so many late draft picks join the ranks of desirable free agents. Contracts like Taylor's, Timmons', and Woodley's were signed because their worth was that much higher than their potential teammates'. Once we arrived at the end of 2012, suddenly this team wasn't built on 7 players anymore.

We will be seeing plenty of rookie contracts expire over the next few seasons, many of which we will want to replace with new deals; like Maurkice Pouncey who could demand big money should he opt for free agency, rather than settle for what we may be able to offer him. Had we kept some of our players from 2013, there would be too much dead money when these negotiations take place to make a competitive offer. This is a heartbreaking dilemma associated with every season of this speculation.

Players leaving in 2014: Max Starks, Ziggy Hood, Al Woods, Jason Worilds, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark

The pain just keeps rolling. Not only do we lose one of the greatest safeties to ever play the game this year, we also lose the other. Considering the health and age of both Clark and Polamalu; I don't see Clark being re-signed to a contract similar to his last deal, because we can't afford it. Troy became a release for me, because we desperately need the cap space. Troy is very cognizant of his health, and often speaks to his concerns of lingering effects from football. This let's him start on his retirement one year early, though we are left in the hands of a high draft pick from last season, Robert Golden, and Will Allen for one more year. Releasing Polamalu put a penalty of a little over 6 Million against 2014's cap figure, but it still saved 8.25 Million. I've tried releasing Troy after June 1st, to alleviate the penalty to make room to sign Ziggy; but it just doesn't work without some ridiculously exotic contract for Ziggy. For those folks who feel incentive-laden contracts fix this problem, incentives are lumped in with Bonus Money, as long as they are deemed "Likely To Be Earned" based on previous years' statistics. Max Starks is another player that could still play if re-signed, but I replaced him with a rookie contract and still barely got under the cap line.

Ziggy is the cut I hated the most in this year. He's still so young, and at times shows flashes of Steeler LE. Other times, he looks like a fish out of water; a backup at best. I want him here, personally; but again, I tried to leave personal feelings out of this post. I included him in all of my attempts at this post; however, there just isn't enough money now, or in the future to offer him a contract. For this speculation, we'll say he walks at the end of his deal. He is replaced in this season by a top level pick, as we try again to replace Aaron Smith. Chalk his name up on the list of players that could have been afforded, had we not spent so heavily in 2013.

When it came to clearing cap space for this season, considering I need to clear as much as possible; 3 players were in contract problems, meaning they had too few years left to make the most of their restructure. These players were Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller, and Willie Colon. These 3 players, as it stands right now in 2012, are key components to our offensive success. At their respective ages, they were still not as expendable as Ziggy Hood, Max Starks [who has 2 high draft picks in front of him], and Jason Worilds [who would have started for Harrison in 2013]. For these 3 players, I included contract extensions to make more years to spread restructured money across. When you reach the chart in this section, the new years are blue, while the original years are red because of the restructure. In the restructures that include extensions below, the numbers listed with the extension are the base salaries per each extra season. I gave no additional signing bonuses, as I needed every possible, restructurable cent. These years will be covered by "guaranteed" money because of the base salaries converted into "bonuses" along those years.

Here's how the restructures worked out:

Ben Roethlisberger: 8.25 Million Saved [11 Million converted][2yr Extension: 12.1/10.1]

Original Base Salary: 12,100,000

Original Bonuses: 7,295,000

Original Cap Hit: 19,395,000

New Base Salary: 1,100,000

New Bonus: 10,045,000

New Cap Hit: 11,145,000

Mike Wallace: 6.75 Million Saved [9 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 9,500,000

Original Bonuses: 3,000,000

Original Cap Hit: 12,500,000

New Base Salary: 500,000

New Bonuses: 5,250,000

New Cap Hit: 5,750,000

Antonio Brown: 3.75 Million Saved [5 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 6,000,000

Original Bonuses: 1,700,000

Original Cap Hit: 7,700,000

New Base Salary: 1,000,000

New Bonuses: 2,950,000

New Cap Hit: 3,950,000

Emmanuel Sanders: 4.5 Million Saved [6 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 7,000,000

Original Bonuses: 1,200,000

Original Cap Hit: 8,200,000

New Base Salary: 1,000,000

New Bonuses: 2,700,000

New Cap Hit: 3,700,000

Willie Colon: 3.2 Million Saved [4.8 Million converted][1yr extension 5]

Original Base Salary: 5,500,000

Original Bonuses: 3,650,000

Original Cap Hit: 9,150,000

New Base Salary: 700,000

New Bonuses: 5,250,000

New Cap Hit: 5,950,000

LaMarr Woodley: 4.6 Million Saved [6.9 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 8,000,000

Original Bonuses: 6,240,000

Original Cap Hit: 14,240,000

New Base Salary: 1,100,000

New Bonuses: 8,540,000

New Cap Hit: 9,640,000

Lawrence Timmons: 4 Million Saved [6 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 6,750,000

Original Bonuses: 4,285,000

Original Cap Hit: 11,035,000

New Base Salary: 750,000

New Bonuses: 6,285,000

New Cap Hit: 7,035,000

Keenan Lewis: 5.25 Million Saved [7 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 8,000,000

Original Bonuses: 1,000,000

Original Cap Hit: 9,000,000

New Base Salary: 1,000,000

New Bonuses: 2,750,000

New Cap Hit: 3,750,000

Rashard Mendenhall: 3.75 Million Saved [5 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 5,700,000

Original Bonuses: 1,800,000

Original Cap Hit: 7,500,000

New Base Salary: 700,000

New Bonuses: 3,050,000

New Cap Hit: 3,750,000

Heath Miller: 3.2 Million Saved [4.8 Million converted][2yr extension 5/5]

Original Base Salary: 6,020,000

Original Bonuses: 1,946,500

Original Cap Hit: 7,966,500

New Base Salary: 1,220,000

New Bonuses: 3,546,500

New Cap Hit: 4,766,500

Because I released Ziggy Hood, I only handed out one new contract to a veteran in 2014; that veteran being Jerricho Cotchery. I gave him an offer to stay here for one more season for a million bucks. This is one of the few times I offered a player less than their previous year. The odds of him accepting this offer would revolve around how much he wants to play here vs elsewhere. I don't necessarily expect him to take it, but I offer it anyways. If he turns it down, I can install a younger player like David Gilreath for a lower salary. Speaking of Gilreath, something else I would like you to keep in mind about the Draft Picks in this post. No one is guaranteeing that every single pick will make the roster. Sometimes, I would expect draft picks to wind up on the Practice Squad, promoting another player to the active roster. However, because most PS players are on contracts similar to rookie deals, the money allocated to a "draft pick" should be substantial enough to cover the contract of a player like Gilreath, or Marshall McFadden.

Because of all the restructuring, I was able to once again get us below the Salary Cap limbo stick. However, as with 2013, keep an eye on the rising "dead money" and the 2015 subtotal regarding these restructured deals. Like I've said before, we're not making the money disappear, we're simply pushing it into the future, with a "cross that bridge when we come to it" mentality. I don't feel this is the right way to approach the GM position, but this was the only way to make as many players fit as possible. Losing Ziggy two seasons in feels like a failure, however things like this happen in reality all the time. By not re-signing him, I am able to keep other players a bit longer.

Here is the big picture view of 2014:

Steelersalaries2014_medium

I've checked, and rechecked my math several times before posting this; yet I still found an error. Ben Roethlisberger's cap hit for 2014 on this chart is 100,000 short, meaning I am actually approximately 100k over the cap. 100,000 is not an impossible feat, so I'm not going to rework 6 years of salaries to make that disappear. I will leave that 100k on the real front office to deal with, should they follow a plan similar to mine. This can be fixed through pinching a few bucks from multiple restructures. My sincerest apologies.

When it comes to my Draft Pick allocations, keep in mind that the round listed with the pick has more to do with where I feel the team's priorities would lie in this situation. While some fans are still clamoring for a dominant ROLB, we are still weeding out linebackers already under contract. Worilds was allowed to walk after 2013, and Chris Carter will see his contract expire at the end of 2014. Because Carter and Adrian Robinson are still on the roster, I only spent a fifth round priority on OLB; and even that pick would be a possible backup for Woodley, in my mind. At this point, we only have one LE on the roster, and he is only a sophomore; this is why I put LE at number one. I would expect to take another player like Ziggy. A lot of speculation throughout the nation revolves around a change in defensive philosophy. I am not taking that into consideration here. I am drafting and signing players for our 3-4 base scheme. I'm trying to stick to what I know, as my team usually sticks to what it knows.

As is the situation with Carter, so is it with Marcus Gilbert. The jury is still out on Gilbert. Sometimes, he looks like a premier OT in the making; other days he spends more time on top of players than Willie Colon. Because I can't be certain that Gilbert will continue to improve between 2012 and 2015, plus I can't be sure that I can afford to offer him a new deal; I chose OT to be the second highest priority in draft allocation. I want someone in place, in case I can't keep Gilbert. I spent a 3rd round priority on FS. As of 2014, Robert Golden is the only candidate on the roster. I chose one underdog player on both sides of the ball to pan out. Golden was my defensive selection; however, we will still need depth. Besides, we may find the next Ryan Clark.

Because I now have 4 defensive ends and 2 nose tackles, when I know we usually keep 7 D-linemen; I put NT at priority 4. Not necessarily looking for a starter, as much as I am looking for depth. Ta'amu is still on my roster at this time, but that doesn't mean he automatically turned into Casey Hampton Jr. He may never be anything more than McLendon's backup. Just as we kept Ta'amu active, but inactive, up until the time of his recent troubles; this new NT could hold the same place. Keeping a 3rd NT also allows McLendon to shift to an end position should injuries force emergency procedures. 6th priority went to a defensive back, and there was no room on the active roster for a seventh pick. Looks like he is ending up on the practice squad, unless Cotchery chooses to play elsewhere.

2015: Players under Contract: 36

Team Salary: 148,662,417

Things just keep getting more interesting. I don't have as much cap space to clear as I did in 2014, but the deals I restructured in 2014 have almost doubled in size because of those restructures. Despite being 28 Million over the cap, I am 17 players short of a full roster. Like in 2013, I have to clear an additional 6.63 Million in cap space just to fill the roster with UnDrafted Free Agents making league minimum. I wish I could say this was as bad as it gets, but unfortunately it isn't. It gets worse...much, much worse; but I continue on, doing what I can.

Players Leaving in 2015: Byron Leftwich, Marcus Gilbert, Jerricho Cotchery, Chris Carter, Stevenson Sylvester, Adrian Robinson, Will Allen, Shaun Suisham, Greg Warren

Let's talk about the draft picks first. This is the year we draft a new, starting ROLB in slot 1. We also take an ILB, and another LB in slot 7 and a UDFA. These players are more for special teams, and occasional depth. Because I took Gilbert's replacement last year with a second round pick, I spend this years 2nd round pick on a guard, hopefully to eventually replace the aging Willie Colon. The remainder of the picks are up to your imagination. I have a QB as number 3, however I would expect a Free Agent in that slot. The third level contract should be enough to cover that type of salary. We've retained Leftwich and Batch a lot longer, on a lot less. We will also need a new kicker and long-snapper, though we probably won't draft those positions. However, they are added to this roster again, because the rookie contracts should cover new players coming in. The actual draft picks in those slots could be for any position, and be either on the active or PS. The other picks were spent on depth needs, also interchangeable with low wage free agents.

Speaking of free agents, this is not a year to start out 30 million over the cap. Fortunately, I don't have any dead money from previous years hanging over my head, as I try to sign my free agents. These are the new contracts I handed out:

Maurkice Pouncey: 5 years, 40 Million [10 Million signing bonus]

Cameron Heyward: 5 years, 30 Million [5 Million signing bonus]

Cortez Allen: 5 years, 25 Million [5 Million signing bonus]

Curtis Brown: 5 years, 18 Million [2 Million signing bonus]

Will Johnson: 4 years, 7 Million [2 Million signing bonus]

Robert Golden: 4 years, 7 Million [2 Million signing bonus]

Drew Butler: 4 years, 3.9 Million [400k signing bonus]

Baron Batch: 3 years, 4.5 Million [1.5 Million signing bonus]

Perhaps Pouncey deserves more than that, but that was the best I could come up with. Heyward, could also have probably used a raise, but considering that Keisel made barely over 2.5 base salary for 2012, I didn't feel my offer was unreasonable. I signed Cortez Allen on the cheap, spreading some of his pay to Brown with the hopes of keeping them both here. Even if Brown doesn't turn out to be a starting outside corner in this league, he may still thrive as a nickel back. If he isn't persuaded to test the spectrum of grass on the outside of the fence, he may be able to be retained on a reasonable salary. He has become a ST staple, thus earning a bit more in my opinion, like Baron Batch. With Batch's age in 2015, my initial thought was to let him walk; but a 3rd down back stands a better chance of playing at a similar level, than does a 30 year old Chris Rainey. Rainey may not be able to walk by this point, let alone be the explosive threat we see him as in 2012. Being near the thirty line does not affect a back's ability to contribute to special teams and as a blocker; only his ability to carry 20 times a game. Considering he's not a serious running threat as a young man, his stock shouldn't decrease at this time. He will be experienced, and looking to keep working when most teams turn their backs on 30 year old backs.

Of course, by signing these 8 free agents and 9 rookies, I have dug my hole even deeper. It's time to clear space through more restructures. Here's how I got us below the line:

Ben Roethlisberger: 7 Million Saved [10.5 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 11,600,000

Original Bonuses: 10,045,000

Original Cap Hit: 21,645,000

New Base Salary: 1,100,000

New Bonuses: 13,545,000

New Cap Hit: 14,645,000

Rashard Mendenhall: 4 Million Saved [6 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 6,700,000

Original Bonuses: 3,050,000

Original Cap Hit: 9,750,000

New Base Salary: 700,000

New Bonuses: 5,050,000

New Cap Hit: 5,750,000

Mike Wallace: 4.6 Million Saved [6.9 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 8,000,000

Original Bonuses: 5,250,000

Original Cap Hit: 13,250,000

New Base Salary: 1,100,000

New Bonuses: 7,550,000

New Cap Hit: 8,650,000

Antonio Brown: 3.4 Million Saved [5.1 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 6,000,000

Original Bonuses: 2,950,000

Original Cap Hit: 8,950,000

New Base Salary: 900,000

New Bonuses: 4,650,000

New Cap Hit: 5,550,000

Emmanuel Sanders: 3.4 Million Saved [5.1 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 6,000,000

Original Bonuses: 2,700,000

Original Cap Hit: 9,700,000

New Base Salary: 900,000

New Bonuses: 4,400,000

New Cap Hit: 5,300,000

Willie Colon: 3.75 Million Saved [5 Million converted][2 year extension 5/5]

Original Base Salary: 6,000,000

Original Bonuses: 5,250,000

Original Cap Hit: 11,250,000

New Base Salary: 1,000,000

New Bonuses: 6,500,000

New Cap Hit: 7,500,000

Ramon Foster: 1.4 Million Saved [2.1 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 2,600,000

Original Bonuses: 400,000

Original Cap Hit: 3,000,000

New Base Salary: 500,000

New Bonuses: 1,100,000

New Cap Hit: 1,600,000

Doug Legursky: 1.4 Million Saved [2.1 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 2,600,000

Original Bonuses: 400,000

Original Cap Hit: 3,000,000

New Base Salary: 500,000

New Bonuses: 1,100,000

New Cap Hit: 1,600,000

Steve McLendon: 1.4 Million Saved [2.1 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 2,600,000

Original Bonuses: 400,000

Original Cap Hit: 3,000,000

New Base Salary: 500,000

New Bonuses: 1,100,000

New Cap Hit: 1,600,000

Heath Miller: 3 Million Saved [4 Million converted][2yr extension 5/5]

Original Base Salary: 5,000,000

Original Bonuses: 1,600,000

Original Cap Hit: 6,600,000

New Base Salary: 1,000,000

New Bonuses: 2,600,000

New Cap Hit: 3,600,000

Jonathan Dwyer: 1.4 Million Saved [2.1 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 2,800,000

Original Bonuses: 1,000,000

Original Cap Hit: 3,800,000

New Base Salary: 700,000

New Bonuses: 1,700,000

New Cap Hit: 2,400,000

LaMarr Woodley: 6 Million Saved [8 Million converted][2yr extension 8/9]

Original Base Salary: 8,500,000

Original Bonuses: 6,240,000

Original Cap Hit: 13,740,000

New Base Salary: 500,000

New Bonuses: 8,240,000

New Cap Hit: 8,740,000

Lawrence Timmons: 4.8 Million Saved [6.4 Million converted][2yr extension 9/8]

Original Base Salary: 7,500,000

Original Bonuses: 4,285,000

Original Cap Hit: 11,785,000

New Base Salary: 1,100,000

New Bonuses: 5,885,000

New Cap Hit: 6,985,000

Keenan Lewis: 3.4 Million Saved [5.1 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 6,000,000

Original Bonuses: 2,750,000

Original Cap Hit: 8,750,000

New Base Salary: 900,000

New Bonuses: 4,450,000

New Cap Hit: 5,350,000

If you're wondering why I would offer contract extensions to a 32 year old Miller, a 31 year old Colon, a 30 year old Woodley, and a 28 year old Timmons; there wasn't enough years left on their deals to save enough space to get under the cap. Miller and Colon at this point are getting extensions to allow them as much time to play as they want, yet keeping the cost of their eventual retirements as small as possible. Woodley and Timmons also needed more years to make the most of their restructure; although Timmons is still young enough at this point to want around for 5 more seasons. Woodley? We're just trying to keep his cost down. It's contracts like his should clue you in to how much the FO has been pleasantly surprised by the growth of some of their picks. If the FO thought they would want to sign Sanders, Brown, and Wallace in a few seasons; they probably hand out slightly less lucrative deals to people like Woodley, Colon, and Miller [Although, Miller has been worth every dime. Players make a lot more for a lot less with other teams. Miller is well compensated, but if dollars equaled quality of effort, he'd be the highest paid man on this team, regardless of his 40-time.

This restructuring bit is getting old. If you look at the big picture chart below, you'll see 2 devastating facts. First, we are already 68 Million dollars over the cap. Second, the deals restructured to make room in 2015 will bloom in 2016. With the salaries of just 13 players, we are over the cap limit by 9 Million. This train just keeps on wrecking.

Steelersalaries2015_medium

2016: Players under Contract: 45

Team Salary: 188,349,305

No, that's not a typo. This is the year the whole thing starts busting at the seams. With 8 empty seats to fill, I will have to clear a minimum of 71.12 Million dollars just to field a team of 53. This is becoming a nightmare. This is usually the year that would send my previous years into the trash can, forcing me to start again. Keep in mind, this was my last attempt, which yielded the "best" results. However, GM's don't get cap credits for whining about the difficulty of their job; so let's get down to business.

Players leaving in 2016: Rashard Mendenhall, Willie Colon, Doug Legursky, Ramon Foster, Steve McLendon, David Johnson, Kelvin Beachum, Alameda Ta'amu, Sean Spence, DeMarcus Van Dyke

Ouch. I originally had some of these contracts restructured; but it didn't help. It got us under the cap for this season, but we were way over in 2017. So, instead, I cut ties with players now. As a result, I will have to contend with cap penalties of 11.025 Million in both 2016 and 2017, because I released them all after June 1st. I would certainly hope that the FO would be able to trade someone like Mendenhall for a higher level draft pick, instead of cutting him outright; although, I believe we still get stuck with his penalty even through trade. At least we would get something for him, though I'm not sure if you can split up a guy's dead money on trades. If not, then June 1st it is.

Guys like Foster, and Legursky are not starters, and even though the depth they provide is invaluable, its also unaffordable at this point. Willie Colon had also reached a breaking point, both with salary and age. David Johnson is only on this list because I added him in Pope's place in the beginning. Because I still have him around, he will cost us a 150,000 penalty for 2016, but he saved 850,000. Guys like Beachum, Ta'amu, and Van Dyke may not survive 2012 on the real roster, but I had them included, and treated them as viable players, even if they end up as backups. Regardless of their performances, the chance of offering them new deals is zero. This is the same reason I let Spence walk, whether he plays well or not. Because of our spending, we can't afford him either.

As for the players already under contract, here's how the restructures worked out:

Ben Roethlisberger: 8.25 Million Saved [11 Million converted][2yr extension 8/8]

Original Base Salary: 12,100,000

Original Bonuses: 6,250,000

Original Cap Hit: 18,350,000

New Base Salary: 1,100,000

New Bonuses: 9,000,000

New Cap Hit: 10,100,000

Jonathan Dwyer: 2.475 Million Saved [3.3 Million converted][2yr extension 8/7]

Original Base Salary: 4,300,000

Original Bonuses: 1,700,000

Original Cap Hit: 6,000,000

New Base Salary: 1,000,000

New Bonuses: 2,525,000

New Cap Hit: 3,525,000

Heath Miller: 2.6 Million Saved [3.9 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 5,000,000

Original Bonuses: 2,600,000

Original Cap Hit: 7,600,000

New Base Salary: 1,100,000

New Bonuses: 3,900,000

New Cap Hit: 5,000,000

Mike Wallace: 5.2 Million Saved [6.5 Million converted][3yr extension 7/7/6]

Original Base Salary: 7,500,000

Original Bonuses: 7,550,000

Original Cap Hit: 15,050,000

New Base Salary: 1,000,000

New Bonuses: 8,850,000

New Cap Hit: 9,850,000

Antonio Brown: 5.8 Million Saved [7.25 Million converted][3yr extension 7/7/6]

Original Base Salary: 8,250,000

Original Bonuses: 4,650,000

Original Cap Hit: 12,900,000

New Base Salary: 1,000,000

New Bonuses: 6,100,000

New Cap Hit: 7,100,000

Emmanuel Sanders: 3.2 Million Saved [4 Million converted][3yr extension 6/6/6]

Original Base Salary: 5,000,000

Original Bonuses: 4,400,000

Original Cap Hit: 9,400,000

New Base Salary: 1,000,000

New Bonuses: 5,200,000

New Cap Hit: 6,200,000

Maurkice Pouncey: 3.3 Million Saved [4.4 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 5,500,000

Original Bonuses: 2,000,000

Original Cap Hit: 7,500,000

New Base Salary: 1,100,000

New Bonuses: 3,100,000

New Cap Hit: 4,200,000

Cameron Heyward: 5.25 Million Saved [7 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 8,000,000

Original Bonuses: 1,000,000

Original Cap Hit: 9,000,000

New Base Salary: 1,000,000

New Bonuses: 2,750,000

New Cap Hit: 3,750,000

LaMarr Woodley: 6.4 Million Saved [8 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 9,000,000

Original Bonuses: 5,640,000

Original Cap Hit: 14,640,000

New Base Salary: 1,000,000

New Bonuses: 7,240,000

New Cap Hit: 8,240,000

Lawrence Timmons: 6.4 Million Saved [8 Million converted]

Original Base Salary: 8,745,000

Original Bonuses: 3,885,000

Original Cap Hit: 12,630,000

New Base Salary: 745,000

New Bonuses: 5,485,000

New Cap Hit: 6,230,000

Keenan Lewis: 3 Million Saved [4 Million converted][2yr extension 5/5]

Original Base Salary: 5,000,000

Original Bonuses: 4,450,000

Original Cap Hit: 9,450,000

New Base Salary: 1,000,000

New Bonuses: 5,450,000

New Cap Hit: 6,450,000

Cortez Allen: 4 Million Saved [5 Million converted][1yr extension 6]

Original Base Salary: 6,000,000

Original Bonuses: 1,000,000

Original Cap Hit: 7,000,000

New Base Salary: 1,000,000

New Bonuses: 2,000,000

New Cap Hit: 3,000,000

Curtis Brown: 1 Million Saved [1,25 Million converted][1yr extension 6]

Original Base Salary: 2,100,000

Original Bonuses: 400,000

Original Cap Hit: 2,500,000

New Base Salary: 850,000

New Bonuses: 650,000

New Cap Hit: 1,500,000

I did it. I got us below the cap. Take a look:

Steelersalaries2016_medium

Not bad considering the amount of cash I had to make disappear; though, as we've learned so far, it doesn't disappear forever. Looking forward to next season on the chart below, our situation keeps getting darker, and darker. The restructured deals alone are even farther over the cap than last season. The total team salary is over 169 million, plus we have at least 11.025 million in penalties.

Here goes nothing...

2017: Players under Contract: 46

Team Salary: 169,224,305

...and nothing is exactly what we're left with. The penalties I was forced to create last year, have proved too much to bear. The whole point of this exercise was to keep our 2012 unit together; and 2017 is as far as they will make it. I restructured every possible deal, but it wasn't enough. I cut players like Wallace, Lewis, and Dwyer; and it still wasn't enough, no matter how much cap space it saved me. Here's a look at the big picture chart:

Steelersalaries2017_medium

If you're wondering why I didn't just restructure Wallace, Lewis, and Dwyer's deals; it's because it saved more cap space to cut them, than it did to restructure. Wallace saved 9.47 Million, as opposed to the 4.5 million saved by restructure. Lewis saved 6.275, over the 2.8 saved by restructure. Dwyer saved 6.488, which was almost twice the 3.4 saved by restructure.

According to the chart, even with restructures and releases, I'm still 2 million over the cap while I have yet to offer deals to my starting SS, one of my starting ILB, and my 2 reserve DEs. The 99 million figure is the sum of all salaries for this season. Add in the penalties, and its all too much.

Conclusion:

It can't be done. I tried every angle I could find, and cut every possible corner; yet it still fell apart. The fact of the matter is, we give up too much talent over the next 5 seasons trying to keep all 3 receivers and 2 backs. Perhaps if Mendenhall was allowed to walk after this season, the money saved by not offering him a contract allows the rest to work out. Considering his body of work this year, would you rather have him than Brett Keisel?

Mike Wallace, with all of his stats and all of his speed, shoved a lot of talent out of town over his greed. If James Harrison is able to play next season, what do you see as more important: 3 receivers or 1 Deebo?

Are 3 top shelf receivers worth discarding all the young talent we've accumulated? Guys like Sean Spence have their fates sealed before they've even taken the field. Guys like Ziggy Hood turn into giant wastes of time. Future draft picks will be wasted, as we can't afford to offer what other teams will be able to offer. As it stands, only 17 of our 53 from 2012 will survive such a spending spree. In football, 5 years is a long time; but not so long that you should have over a 50% turnaround in personnel. I ask again: Is it worth it?

If you've made it this far, I apologize for the long, dry post if you feel your time has been wasted. Regardless of who we end up keeping, I believe someone will be allowed to walk away. Maybe it's Wallace, or Mendenhall. Perhaps, there are wholesale releases of lower players in effort to keep Mike and Mendy; which would mean saying goodbye to guys like Sanders and Dwyer.

Having this much quality depth is a blessing and a curse. Maybe I severely overestimated new contract offers. Maybe guys like Sanders or Lewis will be willing to stay for cheaper; though in today's NFL, that seems unlikely. I have not tried running this model releasing Wallace or Mendy, as the point was to try and keep the band from splitting up. Unfortunately, even if you cut your franchise, Super Bowl winning QB; it still may not be enough due to the penalties. I'm sure our real front office will ultimately make the best decision for the team; unfortunately that means we have to give up something we've become accustomed to.

Considering this is being posted shortly after a devastating loss to Baltimore, I hope this is not mistaken for Doom and Gloom. Rather, I hope it forces us to appreciate what we've had. It's hard to look at these charts, then look at Harrison or Taylor, and think that one receiver is more worthy than some of the guys who led us to the promised land in the first place.

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