The math says the Steelers should not extend Ben Roethlisberger in 2014

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to some comments reporter Ian Rapoport made during the middle of last season questions remain about when an extension for Big Ben will happen but according to the math it shouldn't happen this year.

With the draft less than two weeks away and the media looking for stories it is likely only a matter of time until the rumors of a possible trade of Ben Roethlisberger circulate again.

Last time around, Roethlisbergers contract was renegotiated with two years remaining, leading many to think the same thing would happen again this time. Some people like Rapoport have continued to suggest that as it hasn't by now there must be some mystery behind the delay.

There seems to be little question that Big Ben wants to retire a Steeler and only the cynical among us would question the organisation's commitment to the man, given the outspoken words by both the owner and general manager about their desire to see him retire in a Steelers unifom.

"It's unanimous that we want Ben to be a Steeler for the rest of his career," Colbert said on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. "There's nobody that I'd rather have or the franchise would rather have than Ben. He's won for us, there's still a lot of tread of the tires.

The company line to this point has been the organisation wants to resign him, if not this year, then next but it is not just about desire there are other issues to deal with:

"We have some decisions to make," Colbert conceded. "We have some cap issues, but it's not overwhelming. We have got to go through the whole process and make the best decisions we can. There are so many moving parts."

Generally the case put forward by advocates of an extension for Roethlisberger in 2014 is generally based on two premises.

Point 1:

  • Roethlisberger is under paid by today's standards given recent extension to other quarterbacks.

As Rapoport himself said when he spoke to Ken Laird and Guy Junker on the Trib Live Radio Show back in March:

"Playing for $12 million while all of his brethren in the top echelon of quarterbacks play for $18, $19, $20 million? I don't think he'd be thrilled with that with that, nor should he be."

A quick look at some of these new contracts of his brethren shows Roethlisbergers deal paid a similar amount of signing bonus money to some, if not quite the same level of guarantee and total contract money, even though signed back in 2008 - five years before most of these other deals were signed:

  • Aaron Rodgers signed a seven-year, $130.75 million contract. The deal contained $54 million guaranteed and a $35 million signing bonus.
  • Joe Flacco signed a six-year, $120.6 million contract. The deal contained $52 million guaranteed, including a $29 million signing bonus.
  • Matt Ryan signed a six-year, $113.75 million contract. The deal contained $59 million guaranteed, including a $28 million signing bonus.
  • Ben Roethlisberger signed a six-year, $87.99 million contract. The deal contained $33.2 million guaranteed, including a $25.2 million signing bonus.

Here is how their contracts break down going into the next few years and beyond:

Ben Roethlisberger Base Salary Prorated Bonus Roster Bonus Cap Hit Cash Take Home Per Year
2014 $12,100,000 $6,795,000 $0 $18,895,000 $12,100,000
2015 $11,600,000 $6,795,000 $0 $18,395,000 $11,600,000
Aaron Rodgers Base Salary Prorated Bonus Roster Bonus Cap Hit Cash Take Home Per Year
2013 $4,500,000 $7,000,000 $0 $12,000,000 $5,000,000
2014 $900,000 $6,650,000 $9,500,000 $17,550,000 $10,900,000
2015 $1,000,000 $6,650,000 $10,100,000 $18,250,000 $11,600,000
2016 $11,500,000 $6,650,000 $600,000 $19,250,000 $12,600,000
2017 $12,550,000 $6,650,000 $600,000 $20,300,000 $13,650,000
2018 $19,800,000 $0 $600,000 $20,900,000 $20,900,000
2019 20,000,000 $0 $600,000 $21,100,000 $21,100,000
Matt Ryan Base Salary Prorated Bonus Roster Bonus Cap Hit Cash Take Home Per Year
2013 $2,000,000 $7,600,000 $0 $9,600,000 $2,000,000
2014 $9,500,000 $8,000,000 $0 $17,500,000 $9,500,000
2015 $11,500,000 $8,000,000 $0 $19,500,000 $11,500,000
2016 $15,750,000 $8,000,000 $0 $23,750,000 $15,750,000
2017 $15,750,000 $8,000,000 $0 $23,750,000 $15,750,000
2018 $19,250,000 $2,400,000 $0 $21,650,000 $19,250,000
Joe Flacco Base Salary Prorated Bonus Roster Bonus Cap Hit Cash Take Home Per Year
2013 $1,000,000 $5,800,000 $0 $6,800,000 $1,000,000
2014 $6,000,000 $8,800,000 $0 $14,800,000 $6,000,000
2015 $4,000,000 $10,550,000 $0 $14,550,000 $4,000,000
2016 $18,000,000 $10,550,000 $0 $28,550,000 $18,000,000
2017 $20,600,000 $10,550,000 $0 $31,150,000 $20,600,000
2018 $20,000,000 $4,750,000 $0 $24,750,000 $20,000,000

A few notes about these deals. All of them were second deals for the players as extensions on their rookie contracts. Flacco's deal is extremely heavily back loaded and has massive cap hits on the last 3 years and huge dead money over the first 3 years. Rodgers contract also includes a $500,000 workout bonus each season.

Each of the players listed above received a sizable signing bonus. As noted even though the one Big Ben received was less by today's standard it is not that far off Flacco's and Ryan's to be significant. Given that Rodgers bonus is paid over a few years Big Ben would have received actually more up front money in the first year. Some of Flacco's bonus money is also paid in later years rather than upfront as Ben's was.

If we ignore these signing bonus for now and look at the other money each quarterback will take home per year in other payments as cash in their pocket, you will notice Roethlisberger is not doing that badly at all. Indeed his cash sum of $12.1 million is the highest of the four QBs in 2014 by a good margin. Again in 2015 he will be tied for taking home the most cash with Rodgers, be slightly ahead of Ryan, and much better than Flacco.

So to point one of the argument that Big Ben is underpaid compared to his peers - the math does not quite bear that out .....

Point 2:

  • An extension will lower his cap hit and provide space to sign more free agents or extend contracts of others.

First, it is very important to note that any extension offered to Ben will have an additional cap charge of $6.795 million against it for the prorated bonus that already exists against his contract in both 2014 and 2015 plus the financials of any new deal. Just because a contract is extended does not mean the old one goes away and the remaining amounts of any prorated bonus continue through the extended years at the pace of the old deal. Unfortunately, thanks to a number of restructures over the years, these numbers are quite high in Roethlisberger's case.

If Ben was given Flacco's deal - the cap hit, as against his current contract, would be a saving of $5.3 million in 2014 and an increase of $3.2 million against his 2015 cap number and cap suicide for the Steelers towards the end of the deal when he would be really up there in age and the cap numbers get crazy.

If Ben was given Ryan's deal - the cap hit, as against his current contract, would be a saving of $2.5 million in 2014 and an increase of $5.9 million against his 2015 cap number.

If Ben was given Rodgers deal - the cap hit, as against his current contract, would be a saving of $100,000 in 2014 and an increase of $5.95 million against his 2015 cap number.

Given that the deals above were signed in 2013 there is a chance Roethlisberger could command a little more and the savings in year one would be even less and the increase in year two that much more.

So at best the Steelers could expect to save about $3 million against his current cap hit in 2014 and expect to increase it by about $6 million in 2015 based on recent new deals signed by other QB's.

According to the math here there is not a significant cap saving to be found in 2014 at all and an unnecessary increase on his cap charge in 2015, which is a year that has some significant free agents coming up that need to be taken care of. With expected cap space of around $20 million in 2015, but 43 other players out of contract including several starters, adding upwards of another $6 million to the cap next year does not seem to make a lot of sense.

The longer Ben stays on his current deal the better for the Steelers financially and therefore all Steeler fans should hope nothing happens to his contract this year at all. Ideally, nothing should happen to it in 2015 either and Ben should play out the last year of his contract. If they cannot come to a deal then, they can tag him. He need never hit the open market.

At his contract's end he will be a 34 year old QB looking for his last deal, with limited time left in his career. If he hasn't been able to remain injury free over the last two years of his contract he will not have such a strong negotiating position as he does today. If the Steelers have had two more seasons like the last two, his bargaining position will be that much weaker still. If he has had serious injuries over this time, the Steelers can cut their losses and move on. There is nothing significant to be gained by extending Big Ben and a lot to lose potentially from the perspective of those that control the finances.

None of this is good news for Roethlisberger personally, but it certainly does explain why the Steelers might be dragging their feet over an extension on their end. Despite what Mr Rapoport would have you believe, at the end of the day an extension for Roethlisberger will be about the math and the financials of the situation rather than anything else.

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