Just when you thought it was safe to stop worrying about the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL salary cap, people have already begun digging into next year before the 2013 season has officially been sorted out.
Brian McIntyre recently took a peek at the numbers on Yahoo! Sports' Shutdown Corner and expressed their concerns for next year's Steelers model, pointing fingers at the contracts of Ben Roethlisberger, Brett Keisel and Ryan Clark.
Roethlisberger will have two seasons remaining on his contract after this year, expecting cap figures of over $18 million per season. As BTSC has discussed in the past (as early as last season), 2014 would be a prime time for the team to offer him an extension. If they do, it will most likely be of the three-year variety, because the CBA allows teams to straddle signing bonuses along five seasons, allowing Pittsburgh to restructure the two remaining years from his original contract which would create the most cap space for 2014.
As it stands right now, the team is carrying a 2014 top-51 cap figure of $127.7 million, with an additional $4.3 million in dead money as a result of Willie Colon's June 1st-designated release. The team is currently ~$4.4 million below the cap in 2013, leaving reason to suspect the team may try to not spend another dime unless it becomes absolutely necessary. Unused cap space carries over to the following year as a cap credit, which would cover the Colon differential.
Should the team feel it needs to make more moves during training camp, McIntyre believes Clark and Keisel are the prime candidates for early retirement. Both men are in the final years of their respective contracts. Clark would provide $3.75 million in cap clearance, and Keisel would save the team $3.225 million. However, the team is looking at a lot of inexperience behind both men on the depth chart, decreasing the true value of the existence on the roster; especially considering the team is already well under the salary cap with them in place.
McIntyre also feels Emmanuel Sanders was actually quite a bargain for the Steelers at the amount of $2.5 million - the amount of the New England Patriots offer sheet which Sanders signed and the team subsequently matched. His career stats may not exactly stack up to his salary (94 catches, 1290 yards, 5 TDs in 3 seasons), but if his performance can catch up to his potential, his 32nd best salary among NFL receivers would be quite a discount.
At the moment, the team seems prepared to stand pat with what they have, but should injuries or poor performance begin plaguing the training camp fields in Latrobe, they may need to change their stance.
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