His plan to honor his contract next season with the Steelers isn't exactly shocking. Whether the Steelers plan to let him honor the contract is more of the story.
In light of his eighth Pro Bowl selection, Polamalu appears to have all the leverage in terms of whether he would agree to taking a pay cut to remain with the team next season. His $10.88 million salary cap number and $8.25 million salary appear to be working strongly against his goal of remaining with the team. But unlike James Harrison in 2012, Polamalu is coming off a strong season in many regards, and the market will likely pay him much closer to that amount than Harrison was scheduled to get.
A meeting in the middle seems to be the best option. Polamalu's services certainly shouldn't come for free, but his contract was set up in such a way he would have a huge salary this season with a substantially lower amount of dead money, should he be released.
That essentially means both sides would be wise to re-negotiate this offseason. He can't fully expect the Steelers to let him carry that big of a cap number into the 2014 season. If he wants to remain in Pittsburgh, he'll have to do it for less money. In doing that, though, he can get new money up front in the form of a signing bonus.
Keep in mind, not one dime of Polamalu's current contract is guaranteed in 2014. He has $2.6 million remaining on his prorated signing bonus from his 2011 contract extension.
A two or three year extension with a $6-7 million signing bonus ($1 million base in 2014) would substantially reduce his cap number (essentially $10.88 million to $5.93 million), give him a significant amount of money up front and keep him in Pittsburgh to finish his career where he should finish it.
Polamalu has the right to make as much as he can for his services, and it would be hard to fault him for wanting to stay for an amount other than what he signed for in 2011. But finishing out his Hall of Fame career with a successful team in the same place he started has value as well. And that will likely mean he'll have to play for less.
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