How dare other matters take me away from the Steelers on the day that they make a huge move in their 2009 offseason. C'est la vie. I sure did enjoy reading about the news though, even if it took awhile to think about all the implications were. And it helped and it sure was interesting reading the lengthy comment thread from you guys after it was announced that the Pittsburgh Steelers had slapped the franchise tag on Max Starks before the Thursday 4 pm deadline. The following are some of the key talking points moving forward:
- The main question on everyone's mind is will the team ink Starks to a long term deal that doesn't cost $8.451 million+ in 2009? The organization has until July 15th to work out a long-term arrangement before officially being on the hook for a large lump one-year sum.
What are the salary cap implications? If Starks is signed to a multi-year deal and the franchise tag is removed, who knows exactly what the terms might be, but it's guaranteed that the Steelers would add a little bit more cap space in 2009 to work with. If he is not signed to a long-term deal by the July 15th deadline, Pittsburgh will have roughly $10-13 million in cap space remaining. Setting aside ~$5 million for our draft picks, that leaves the Steelers pretty much out of the equation to sign Bryant McFadden.
- So what's next? It's likely the Steelers will try to tender Willie Colon, and he could cost upwards of $2 million; Trai Essex might also be signed to a skimpy 2-year deal. What about Keyaron Fox?
Is Bryant McFadden off the table completely? I don't think completely. I sure hope not. I like our chances a LOT better to repeat if he were back. Sure we survived when he went down in 2008. But it helped that Polamalu was still there and that both our pass rushing LBs were there healthy. Losing just one or two guys could have a devastating domino effect on our secondary if we're trying to rely on William Gay, a 35 year old Deshea Townsend, etc. B-Mac would minimize that and give us the right kind of depth to survive in a pass-heavy league.
- Any other options to shed salary in 2009? Yes, in fact, there are. I don't think Big Ben will be asked to re-work his contract. But Casey Hampton and Hines Ward might if they were also offerred two-year extensions. This hasn't been discussed much, but it's possible that 2010 could be an uncapped year. I'm not sure of all the implications of that just yet; and what kind of rules there are to prevent teams from bumping lots of their cap hits to 2010 or the future when there may not be a cap. That's a project for another day but anyway, the examples of Snack and Ward are ones where both sides could show each other a little good faith by finding common ground in this framework.
What about cutting guys? Options include Kendall Simmons (huge cap savings); Larry Foote (3+ mil); Tyrone Carter (almost zero bonus money due); Travis Kirschke. There are ways to free up money to make a play at B-Mac if the organization so choose to. It will likely take a combination of several of the options I discussed though to make it happen.
We'll get into full NFL Scouting Combine coverage this weekend and next week but with the news of Max Starks' franchising still relatively hot off the press, let's keep the focus here for a bit longer as it undeniably has framed much of how the remainder of the offseason will play out.