The Pittsburgh Steelers may not have a ton of wiggle room beneath the NFL salary cap limbo bar, but they aren't afraid to spend when it comes to quality talent which is willing to make itself affordable.
Free agent safety Mike Mitchell signed a 5 year deal with the Steelers yesterday, reported at a total value of $25 million. Today, details of the actual structure have begun to circulate, painting a clearer picture as to how the team was able to land a quality replacement for apparently-retiring Ryan Clark.
Mike Mitchell Steelers deal: five years, $25 million, $5.25 million guaranteed, $4.75 million bonus, salaries $750,000, $2M, $5M, $5M, $5M— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) March 12, 2014
While the team scuttled some dead weight to get their heads back above water in relation to the cap, they didn't break the bank to acquire Mitchell's services.
The $4.75 million signing bonus will break down to a $950,000 dead money hit to each of the contract's five seasons. Combining base salary with bonus allocations leaves Mitchell only hitting the Steelers cap ledger for $2.2 million in 2014 counting an additional $500,000 roster bonus, and $2.95 million total in 2015.
Even in the final three years, Mitchell would only hit for $5.95 million. Certainly more than Clark received in his final season as a tenured starter, but still not an outlandish, Polamalu-esque amount.
Based on the structure of the deal, Mitchell basically has two years to prove he is the player the team envisioned he would be. If the team were to change their mind and feel to need to release him in year three, they would only suffer a cap penalty of $2.85 million while saving the final $15 million in base salary. There is also little fear of restructuring complicating matters in the future, because of the lower base wages in the first two seasons. If the team is restructuring in the final years, it is safe to say the player would have been earning his keep on the field to that point.
The Steelers have earned their miserly reputation when it comes to free-agency. They rarely pursue the top dogs, but they have a way of finding quality talent at affordable prices.