With a number of key free agents decisions looming in 2015 and the hopes of fans to see some players extended this off-season it seems like a good time to take a look ahead at the Steelers salary cap situation for next year.
Currently the Steelers have 28 Players under contract for 2015. As of today that is the lowest number of any team in the league followed closely by the Broncos with 29. For comparison the Eagles, Cardinals and Browns on the other hand currently have 51 players under contract for next year. With so few players under contract the Steelers will have the 10th lowest cap payroll but that only tells part of the story.
To get the true picture of the Steelers salary cap commitments in 2015 we need to go beyond the numbers that can be found on a quality site like OverTheCap and factor in the other hidden costs that will be included to give the true amount of cap space the team will have to play with next year.
Firstly we need to establish a cap number to work off. The final cap figure of $133 million was determined rather late in the day this year and it would be no surprise if teams were left guessing on the final figure until a few weeks until compliance again next year. Those in the know like Adam Schefter have the 2015 Salary Cap expected to be in the $140 million plus range:
Salary cap projected to rise to about $133 million this year, expected to break $140 million next year and $150 million by 2016, per source— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 28, 2014
It seems reasonable to go on the conservative side and use a figure of $140 million for this exercise. There is a good chance it will be a bit higher with the new TV revenue but is unlikely to be less so it is a good starting point.
Another assumption made to create this more credible cap figure is to assume Cam Heyward has his fifth year option exercised in the next few weeks, discussed on this site already and add that into the teams cap calculations for next year. That figure should be no higher than $7 million.
Additionally the Steelers will have their draft class from 2014 to take into consideration for next years cap. Using the figures gleaned from the estimates on OverTheCap and discussed in detail on these pages we end up with a number of $7,413,587 that should cover all nine selections. While it is unlikely the Steelers will keep all nine rookies any that are not kept will be replaced by futures signings most likely which brings us to the next addition that needs to be made.
To this point we have accounted for 38 players under contract so far in 2015. Much like this year the Steelers will sign a number of players to futures contracts at the seasons end. With 38 players expected to be signed the team will add at least 13 players to get to 51 players and that should include the 2014 practice squad and a few street free agents. The Steelers signed more than 14 players to futures contracts this year for comparison. If they have not kept all nine rookies they will likely sign one or two more players to futures contracts which would be around a similar cost to a low round draft pick they could otherwise have kept so for accountancy purposes here there shouldn't be much difference to the final figures. The minimum salary for these futures contracts will be $435,000 each in 2015.
The only dead money the Steelers are currently carrying for next year will be for LaMarr Woodley and that accounts for a rather chunky $8.58 million. Should any draft picks be cut prior to the season like Terry Hawthorne was last year they would add to this figure but for now Woodleys is the only number to worry about.
The final accountancy issue that needs to be addressed is the loan the Steelers took against future cap years in 2011 and 2012. Under the terms of the new CBA (page 53 if you want to read the specific part) teams were allowed to essentially defer $3 million of cap money in 2011 and $1.5 million in 2012 to assist with the what was termed as the "transition" to the new reset lower cap number of 2011 and beyond. Teams like the Steelers that did this would have to repay this money back against the cap at some point in the years 2014-2017. The Steelers repaid $1.125 million of that money this year and it seems logical to think that they intend paying it back equally over the next four years and so that figure has been entered against the 2015 cap for this calculation.
So with all that being said and congratulations if you got this far without your head hurting, here is a comprehensive breakdown of all the expected cap charges for the Steelers in 2015 and their expected cap space as of today:
|Pittsburgh Steelers Projected 2015 Salary Cap|
|Player||Position||Base Salary||Prorated Bonus||Other Bonus||Dead Money||Cap Hit|
|Ben Roethlisberger||QB||$ 11,600,000||$ 6,795,000||$ -||$ -6,795,000||$ 18,395,000|
|Lawrence Timmons||ILB||$ 7,500,000||$ 5,066,250||$ -||$ -8,132,520||$ 12,566,250|
|Antonio Brown||WR||$ 6,000,000||$ 3,787,500||$ -||$ -9,662,500||$ 9,787,500|
|Troy Polamalu||SS||$ 6,000,000||$ 2,250,000||$ -||$ -4,500,000||$ 8,250,000|
|Heath Miller||TE||$ 4,000,000||$ 1,666,666||$ -||$ -3,333,334||$ 5,666,666|
|Mike Mitchell||FS||$ 2,000,000||$ 950,000||$ 2,000,000||$ -3,800,000||$ 4,950,000|
|Steve McLendon||NT||$ 2,250,000||$ 558,333||$ -||$ -558,333||$ 2,808,334|
|Cam Thomas||DE/NT||$ 2,000,000||$ 500,000||$ -||$ -500,000||$ 2,500,000|
|David DeCastro||G||$ 1,030,531||$ 1,030,709||$ 425,000||$ -1,030,709||$ 2,486,240|
|LeGarrette Blount||RB||$ 2,000,000||$ 475,000||$ -||$ -475,000||$ 2,475,000|
|Jarvis Jones||OLB||$ 1,196,410||$ 1,177,818||$ -||$ -5,144,161||$ 2,374,228|
|Ramon Foster||OG||$ 1,850,000||$ 300,000||$ -||$ -300,000||$ 2,150,000|
|Bruce Gradkowski||QB||$ 1,550,000||$ 283,334||$ -||$ -283,334||$ 1,833,334|
|Lance Moore||WR||$ 1,500,000||$ 322,500||$ -||$ -322,500||$ 1,822,500|
|William Gay||CB||$ 1,500,000||$ 166,667||$ -||$ -166,667||$ 1,666,667|
|Cody Wallace||OG/C||$ 1,100,000||$ 150,000||$ -||$ -300,000||$ 1,250,000|
|Mike Adams||OT||$ 873,225||$ 254,300||$ -||$ -254,300||$ 1,127,525|
|Le'Veon Bell||RB||$ 779,600||$ 344,200||$ -||$ -688,400||$ 1,123,800|
|Sean Spence||ILB||$ 680,000||$ 136,345||$ -||$ -136,345||$ 816,345|
|Markus Wheaton||WR||$ 605,000||$ 147,844||$ -||$ -295,688||$ 752,844|
|Shamarko Thomas||S||$ 585,000||$ 113,288||$ -||$ -226,576||$ 698,288|
|Landry Jones||QB||$ 585,000||$ 109,805||$ -||$ -219,610||$ 694,805|
|Kelvin Beachum||OT||$ 660,000||$ 11,474||$ -||$ -11,474||$ 671,474|
|David Paulson||TE||$ 660,000||$ 11,474||$ -||$ -11,474||$ 671,474|
|Vince Williams||ILB||$ 585,000||$ 19,670||$ -||$ -39,340||$ 604,670|
|Nick Williams||DE||$ 585,000||$ 14,462||$ -||$ -28,924||$ 599,462|
|Hebron Fangupo||NT||$ 585,000||$ -||$ -||$ -||$ 585,000|
|Nik Embernate||OG||$ 510,000||$ 2,500||$ -||$ -2,500||$ 512,500|
|After expected option is used|
|Cam Heyward||DE||$ 7,000,000||$ -||$ -||$ -||$ 7,000,000|
|Lamarr Woodley||OLB||$ -||$ 8,580,000||$ -||$ -||$ 8,580,000|
|Totals:||$ 67,769,766||$ 35,225,139||$ 2,425,000||$ 106,919,906|
|2014 Rookie Class Salary Cap Hit Projection for 2015:||$ 7,413,587|
|2011/12 season salary cap transition payback:||$ 1,125,000|
|Post 2014 season futures signings to get to 51 players on the roster:||$ 5,655,000|
|Estimated 2015 Salary Cap:||$ 140,000,000|
|Projected 2015 Salary Cap Space:||$ 20,386,507|
With 43 players out of contract at the end of the season including 16 free agents the Steelers will have some work to do before the 2015 season starts and some tough questions regarding which big names they will be able to afford to keep. Even with just over $20 million in projected cap space it will be hard to keep everyone and with next years figures in mind an extension or two this year might be a cost saving measure against potential breakout years for players like Cortez Allen and bigger wage demands.