Following on from a post I made a few days ago examining where the Steelers are at Cap wise and some of the posts in that thread I have tried to work out a logical way the Steelers could approach the off season taking in mind how they have done business in the past.
To make the math easier I will work off a cap deficit of $12,500,000 in 2014 and a cap surplus of $45,000,000 in 2015 and $80,000,000 in 2016, which is close enough to the real figures for accuracy
So the first job is to get under this number
- Cut Levi Brown and his $6,250,000 Cap charge - Something of a no brainer here as this move comes with no dead money attached. The Steelers may still want to look at him for LT but outside of working a new deal I would be shocked if this wasnt the first move to open the new NFL year for Pittsburgh. Since a player outside the 51 takes Browns spot against the cap this creates a saving of $5,830,000 in 2014
This brings the Steelers down to $6,670,000 over the cap.
- Restructure the contract of Ben Roethlisberger. His base salary is $12,100,000 and he has a bonus of $6,795,000 for a total cap charge of $18,895,000 in 2014. They turn his base salary to $2,100,000 and add $5,000,000 each year in bonuses to the remainder of his 2 year contract. This makes his cap charge in 2014 $13,895,000, a saving of $5 million and only a little higher than it was in 2013 ($13,595,000). It will of course make his cap charge go up by $5 million in 2015 but in the final year of his contract set to cost $23,395,000 he would have a new contract worked out and it is a cost the Steelers could afford to carry under the 2015 cap.
This brings the Steelers down to $1,670,000 over the cap.
- Restructure the contract of Lawrence Timmons. His base salary is $6,750,000 and he has a bonus of $5,066,250 for a total cap charge of $11,816,250 in 2014. They turn his base salary to $750,000 and add $2,000,000 each year in bonuses to the remainder of his 3 year contract (This is almost exactly what the Steelers have done with his contract in the last two seasons). This makes his cap charge in 2014 $7,816,250, a saving of $4 million. It will make his cap charge go up by $2 million in 2015 and 2016 with him being set to cost $14,566,250 in 2015 and $13,816,250 in 2016. The Steelers could afford both of the increases relative to the cap space they currently have available and like with Roethlisberger chose to work out a new contract in 2016 and beyond and even restructure in 2015 if they felt the need to.
This brings the Steelers to $2,330,000 under the cap.
- Restructure the contract of Antonio Brown. His base salary is $6,000,000 and he has a bonus of $2,470,000 for a total cap charge of $8,470,000 in 2014. They turn his base salary to $1,000,000 and add $1,250,000 each year in bonuses to the remainder of his 4 year contract (This is very similar to what the Steelers have done with his contract in the last two seasons). This makes his cap charge in 2014 $4,720,000, a saving of $3,750,000. It will make his cap charge go up by $1.25 million in 2015, 2016 and 2017 with him being set to cost $9,720,000 in 2015 and $11,970,000 in 2016. Again the Steelers could afford the increases relative to the cap space they currently have available and like with Timmons could chose to restructure in 2015 if they felt the need to.
This brings the Steelers to $6,080,000 under the cap.
So far to do this the Steelers have cut one player and restructured three contracts adding $3,000,000 to cap costs in 2015 but saving $18,580,000 in 2014 and $2,000,000 in 2016.
Now the Steelers need to sign some of their own free agents. Looking at the names on the list:
- Burress - Gone
- Cotchery - Very likely they want him back and that he wants to return. Keep.
- Sanders - Most likely over valued elsewhere compared to how the Steelers value him $ wise most likely gone.
- Dwyer - Does Tomlin like him enough to want him back. Given his history does he prefer a fresh start elsewhere. Most likely gone.
- Stephens-Howling - Looked the best of the RB's in pre-season and if his injury has healed a good option to be the change of pace back at a low cost. Keep.
- Jones - If both Dwyer and Howlings go he may be resigned but after an average season does not seem to offer that much. Most likley gone.
- D.Johnson - With 3 healthy tight ends on the roster most likely gone.
- Palmer - With 3 healthy tight ends on the roster most likely gone.
- Velasco - If the $ is right he would be a great addition quite possibly gone.
- Wallace - If Velasco has gone Wallace makes a very serviceable backup and what is probably a reasonably cheap cost. Keep.
- Whimper - If he is resigned it is after the draft as veteran backup / insurance. For now gone.
- Hood - Much like Sanders possibly will be over valued elsewhere. Like Dwyer does he want a change of scenary or to play DT in a 4-3. If he resigns then Keisel is surely gone. If the deal is reasonable Steelers likely want to keep him. Have a feeling he is likely gone.
- Keisel - When healthy still has something to offer. Unlikely to be highly valued elsewhere and could be resigned for reasonable $. Keep.
- Woods - Can play both NT and DE and look good in flashes. Looks to have a lot of upside and relatively under the radar. Probably can be resigned for not too much $. Keep.
- Sylvester - Was only brought back due to injury. Unlikely they bring him back certainly in the early stages of free agency. Most likely gone.
- Westerman - Much like Sylvester signed due to injury. Most likely gone.
- Worilds - To some fans the Keenan Lewis of this year. The free agent that must be signed. Came on strong in the final half of the season after lackluster start to his career. Has he played himself out of the Steelers price range. What to do with Woodley. Unlikely to want to stay as a backup. Is he worth big money. Gone IMO.
- Clark - Has already said he wouldnt play for the veteran minimum and play has slipped over the last few years. Some changes have to be made and Clark is the big name that goes. Gone.
- W.Allen - Played very well when resigned mid season. With the loss of Clark will possibly open the season as starter at free safety and probably would not cost too much to resign. Keep.
- McBriar - Was average last year. May come back to compete with Wing with some other option for a camp battle but not an early signing in free agency. For now gone.
- Warren - A solid long snapper who seems to make few errors and given his veteran status comes with a cap discount for his years in the league. May lose camp battle to younger option like Bryce Davis but for now keep.
So with this in mind the Steelers need to find space for:
- Cotchery - Based on his last contract with Pittsburgh (2 years $3m inc $1m bonus) and age (31) I will imagine a contract of 2 years $4.m inc $1.5m bonus. Cap charge $1,750,000 in 2014 and $2,250,000 in 2015. Would cost $750,000 to cut him in 2015.
- Stephens-Howling - Based on his last contract (1 year $715,000) I will imagine a similar contract again. For a 6 year vet that is $730,000 on a 1 year deal.
- Wallace - Signed for $630,000 in 2013. Cant believe he would cost much more than the minimum. For a 7 year vet that is $855,000 on a 1 year deal. If the Steelers want him for a 2 or 3 year deal his cap cost for 2014 should not be for significantly more than $855,000.
- Keisel - It has been indicated on some websites Keisel may be prepared to play for around the minimum and seems keen to stay in Pittsburgh. 2 year deal $4.5m inc $1m bonus. Cap charge $2,000,000 in 2014 and $2,500,000 in 2015. Would cost $500,000 to cut him in 2015.
- Woods - Signed for $630,000 in 2013. Minimum for him in 2014 would be $730,000. Assume he wants a bit more, but certainly less than Steve McLendon got last year (3 years $7.25m inc $1,675m bonus). Offer 3 years $6m inc $1.5m bonus. Cap charge $1,500,000 in 2014, $2,000,000 in 2015 and $2,500,000 in 2016. Would cost $1,000,000 to cut in 2015 and $500,000 to cut in 2016.
- W.Allen - Signed for the minimum with Dallas before coming back to the Steelers. Minimum would be $955,000 for him in 2014. Assume he wants a little bit more. 2 year deal $3m inc $1m bonus. Cap charge $1,500,000 in both 2014 and 2015.
- Warren - Has signed one year deals a few times to stay in Pittsburgh which were eligible for Minimum Salary Benefit relief. Signed for $840,000 in 2013 but only cost $630,00 against the cap. Similar deal in 2014 would only cost $645,000 against the cap for a 1 year deal.
All these deals have cost the Steelers $8.980,000 minus $2,940,000 for the 7 lowest salaries of $420,000 each that would be displaced in line with with rule of 51 the true cost would be $6,040,000.
After all this the Steelers are now $40,000 under the cap.
Following this plan the Steelers still need to create more cap space for outside signings and the draft when they are likely to be making around 10 selections, depending upon compensatory picks they receive and any trades they make. It is unlikely anyone selected in the 5th round or below will count against the cap except any bonus amounts paid to 5th, 6th and 7th round selections.
Taking into account the displaced names currently included in the 51 this would mean the Steelers probably need about $3,500,000 of cap space to cover its rookie class at the least so more moves need to be made.
I would imagine I have over estimated on some of the contracts. Keisel and Allen could well sign for the veteran minimum on a one year deal. Possibly Woods too. Their contracts could also be eligible for Minimum Salary Benefit relief as well, but it gives a starting point for working out the maths.
Since this is such a long piece I will continue boring you in a part 2 soon when I will be trying to figure out the maths with regards to cutting, extending or reducing the salaries of Heath Miller, Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and Maurkice Pouncey as well as the options of cutting Woodley and resigning Worilds.