Stop me if you've heard this one before. Ben Roethlisberger is fed up with the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, and he is demanding to be traded this off-season to a team who can afford to pay him what he feels he is worth.
Yeah, I didn't think it was very funny the first time I heard it, either; and every time NFL.com tells it again, it becomes even less so. The sad part is, they don't think it's a joke.
Roethlisberger does. Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted the QB's reaction to the ongoing investigation into the trade rumors initiated by Ian Rapoport, a reporter for NFL.com, who quoted an anonymous source within the organization.
After leading the Steelers to a comeback victory over the Detroit Lions, Roethlisberger mused, "Maybe I made myself more tradable."
Roethlisberger wasn't laughing at first, when the initial report hit the cover of NFL.com and earned a breaking news banner. He was mad. Whether or not there was any truth to the rumor, the veteran quarterback would know what such news could do the chemistry on his current team. In no way shape or form would he have allowed such information to be common knowledge outside his circle of trust.
The team also reacted quickly, calling the rumor 'erroneous'. Roethlisberger's agent also issued a public statement of denial within the hour. Despite striking out looking after having the gull to step in the box, the NFL just keeps swinging.
Instead of retracting the Rapoport report or simply starve the matter of anymore attention, NFL.com continued the horse-beating with claims of the trade rumors substantiated by Roethlisberger's belief the Steelers are not as financially committed to him as other teams would be. Postulation plus presumption does not equal fact.
At this point, it's become laughable. Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribue-Review spoke to Roethlisberger away from the team, and Ben put the level of truth to the story at, "On a scale of 1 to 10, it's like a minus-1 million."
Perhaps it's more like -$102 million, the total value of his eight year contract due to expire following the 2015 season. Roethlisberger, this year, became the first player ever to actually collect over $70 million of a +$100 million contract. Other players have signed larger contracts, but fizzled out, went to jail or just buried themselves in some foreign doghouse.
A few players like Calvin Johnson may eventually join Roethlisberger as $70 million recipients, but Ben was still the first. While other organizations tempt franchise passers with incentive laden deals with inflated final numbers, the Steelers restructure his contract each season guaranteeing not only his salary for the year, but also tying dead money to future years creating the situation which exists now. Trading Roethlisberger would cost the Steelers over $13 million in cap room without adding the cost of a new starting quarterback.
The Steelers have proven they are financially committed to their quarterback. What good does signing a $20 mil per season contract do, if you only actually collect half? The more attractive option would seem to be signing a $15-18 million per year deal and collect every penny of every season on the contract. Who is frustrated about getting paid?
There is fear the team will be unable to afford to extend the quarterback's contract into the future, but the team's worst cap situation resides in 2014. The more likely move would be to see Roethlisberger sign a three-year extension in the off-season, creating a five-year span to restructure his contract across for cap clearance. Even if the team restructures his deal in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to clear cap space, they will be able to afford dead money laden 2017 and 2018. The only player currently on the roster for 2018 is Antonio Brown. The Steelers have plenty of cap space then.
The Steelers are actually in a good position to make such an investment. Other mammoth cap hits will be off the books by 2015 like Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor. The team will be able to work its young roster around the franchise quarterback, instead of trying to figure out how to add a franchise quarterback to a star-heavy defense which caused the need to constantly restructure Roethlisberger's, and others' contracts over the past few seasons.
However, despite all sources denying the rumor, and all good reasoning pointing the other way as well, NFL.com continues to defend the report. This off-season, reality will expose the truth.
It's your lie, Mr. Rapoport. Tell it any way you like.
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