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So Much For Youth Movement Along D-Line: Steelers Re-Sign Kirschke

The Pittsburgh Steelers and reserve defensive end Travis Kirschke agreed to a two-year contract. Financial terms of the deal, which was announced by Steelers headquarters this morning, have not yet been disclosed.

Kirschke has been a decent special teams player during his tenure in Pittsburgh, which commenced in 2004, but when forced into a starting role, as he was in '07 when All-Pro Aaron Smith was injured, he struggled. The absence of Smith precipitated our steady decline in defensive productivity, especially in the running game.

I'd like to see the terms of the deal before officially saying I'm disappointed and not all that impressed.  Put it this way though: Kirschke was unrestricted, and at least on the surface, there was little to no bidding war around the league for his services. Had there been, it's more than likely that the organization would have let him go. He is an 11-year veteran though, so perhaps it's too be expected that most teams aren't interested in acquiring him.

Kirschke earned $1.6 million in 2007, with another $550,000+ counting against the gap. If you look at the Steelers Salary Cap Numbers from '07, you might notice that Kirschke was fairly well paid considering his contributions on the field. Chris Hoke comes to mind as a guy who did more for less ($1.147 cap hit). B-Mac and DeShea also cost less. Even Santonio and Heath earned smaller pay checks. That's about all you need to know.

Stay tuned for the terms of the deal. In the meantime, weigh in on how you perceive the move. On the one hand, Aaron Smith and Big Snack are aging a touch, and there's no guarantee 4th round pick Ryan McBeam from a year ago will be ready to play. On the other hand, the signing doesn't really do anything to make us a better, or younger football team.

Update: Commentors have pointed out that Kirschke probably signed for the league veternan minimum, prompting me to investigate how the system works, and what the worst-paid, but most experienced players in the NFL received:

How does the veteran minimum salary system work?

The system was implemented to make it less costly to retain older veterans at the minimum salary. Under this new system, the Salary Cap count for a player with four or more Credited Seasons who signs a contract will be the same as the count for a player with three Credited Seasons.

The difference between the Salary Cap count for a qualifying contract and the stated minimum for the qualifying player's years of service will be counted as a Player Benefit and as such is not charged against the teams Salary Cap.

For example, in 2003, a veteran player with 5 Credited Seasons will receive a Minimum Salary of $530,000; however, only $450,000 will count against his club's Team Salary. The difference of $80,000 will be counted as a Player Benefit and be paid out of the NFL-wide benefit pool. Similarly, a qualifying player with 12 Credited Seasons will receive a Minimum Salary of $755,000; however, only $450,000 will count against his club's Team Salary. The difference of $305,000 will be counted as a Player Benefit and be paid out of the League-wide benefit pool. As a result, the 10-year veteran making $755,000 will cost the club the same as the three-year veteran making $450,000.

That's correct, MS Paint does suck and instead of learning my new copy of Photohop this moment, I'll instead search for what the minimum is in 2008. I'm guessing it's in the $820-$875 range, meaning Kirschke might be taking a pay-cut, if he is in fact just offered the league minimum. Read above once more to remind yourself that the entire salary base is not counted against the club's cap space however. In essence, Kirschke could be had on the cheap while still earning one or two final paydays before calling it a career. If he can contribute to special teams, teach the younger guys some of the intracicies of the defense, and be available in case of an injury, he may very well be worth the $500-$600 thousand in cap space it might cost to retain him for the next two years.