As has been speculated since the end of the 2012 NFL regular season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to restructure some of their highest-paid contracts to clear room before the March 12th deadline.
Confirming these rumors is a report by Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, claiming the team is already in talks with Ben Roethlisberger and Lawrence Timmons.
Counting 2013, Roethlisberger has three years remaining and is scheduled for a base salary of $11.6 million this year. Timmons has four years left, and is set for wages totaling $5.375 millioin in 2013. According to Bouchette, the team is not expected to offer extensions during restructures. Roethlisberger was speculated as to receiving a two-year addition this season. Perhaps it will come next year in the form of a three-year extension, which would give the team five years - the maximum determined by the CBA - to prorate a 2014 restructure of Ben's largest scheduled salary of $12.1 million.
When teams restructure contracts without extensions, they are basically turning a player's expected year's salary into a signing bonus, essentially paying the player up front for the season. The team is then allowed to take the amount of converted salary and prorate it proportionately through future contract years. Team's are allowed to restructure up to the player's minimum salary, determined by their accrued number of seasons per CBA rules.
Bouchette speculates the team is trying to figure out if they can afford free-agent receiver Steve Breaston, who has played under offensive coordinator Todd Haley with two other teams in the past. The team will also be looking to clear enough room to offer RFA tenders to players like Jonathan Dwyer, Emmanuel Sanders and Steve McLendon. They will also need to establish a budget to re-sign Keenan Lewis, Mike Wallace or Rashard Mendenhall should the team choose to compete for any of their services.
Bouchette also mentions the Steelers two outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Harrison's agent spoke to the team at the combine, but neither side discussed any renegotiation or restructures; however, his agent confirmed the team will resume talks in Pittsburgh. Woodley has four years remaining on his contract and is rumored to be a target of a restructure, like Roethlisberger and Timmons, but no dialogues have begun between Woodley and the Steelers, nor have any even been hinted at.
If this report holds true, Roethlisberger and Timmons should have their deals finished by the end of the week; shedding a little bit of light on what has begun as a dark off-season in Pittsburgh.