Just a short month ago all you heard coming from the Pittsburgh Steelers was the impending contract for franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The vast majority of the media, and fan base, thought Roethlisberger would receive his new contract before the start of the new league year to avoid paying him his roster bonus, and to potentially free up some salary cap space heading into free agency.
That day came and went, and the Steelers have yet to give No. 7 a new deal.
Some are suggesting the deal is much more complex than many believe, considering it is likely Roethlisberger’s final contract of his NFL career, while others just figure the two sides know a deal will get done, and are just taking their time.
Either way, assuming a deal will get done, what will the deal look like? Will it be an extension? Will there be a lot of guaranteed money? How many years?
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell took a stab at predicted all quarterback deals which are looming around the league. Here is what he had to project about Roethlisberger:
2. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Remaining on his contract: One year, $17 million in cash ($23.2 million cap hit)
There are two reasons Roethlisberger is likely to be the first of the three quarterbacks from his now-legendary draft class to sign. One is that he was first the last time their contracts came due. In 2015, Roethlisberger signed his extension in March, while Philip Rivers waited until August and Eli Manning signed his deal in September. Roethlisberger got more in practical guarantees than Rivers, but he came away with $65 million over the first three years of his new deal, while Rivers was at $68 million and Manning sneaked slightly ahead at $68.5 million.
The other concern is public relations-related: The Steelers probably need to energize their fan base after moving on from both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell in a matter of weeks. Roethlisberger isn’t going to play anywhere else, of course, but extending their 37-year-old quarterback allows the Steelers to draw a line underneath a frantic free-agent period and get back to the business of locking up their stars. This offseason, it will be Roethlisberger; next year, they’ll be able to extend JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner.
Big Ben looked like he took a step backward on deep throws last season, but he shouldered an enormous workload in throwing a league-high 675 passes. Crucially, the future Hall of Famer has been able to stay healthy; for just the second time in his career, he managed to go consecutive seasons without missing a game due to injury. Most players don’t get healthier as they age into their late 30s, but Roethlisberger has missed only one start via injury since the 2015 playoffs.
While I wrote about how the Steelers refuse to guarantee multiple years of base salaries as a policy, the one exception they’ll make on this current roster is for Roethlisberger. In his previous extension, he had the second and third years guaranteed for injury. The Steelers might be willing to guarantee only the second year for injury given Roethlisberger’s advancing age, but he is also likely to get a large enough signing bonus to render the base salary guarantee irrelevant.
What his new deal could look like: Four years, $116 million with $44 million guaranteed at signing.
Roethlisberger’s 2015 extension provided him with the largest annual average salary in terms of new money, at $21.9 million per year, but I doubt he’s going to get more than Rodgers or Wilson will get on their deals. This gets him to $29 million per season in new money, which would be fourth in the NFL behind Rodgers, Wilson and Matt Ryan.
This deal would lock up Roethlisberger well into his 40s. I don’t think he’s actually going to play four years, but the Steelers will probably want to keep five years (which includes the final season of his current deal) on the books to help spread out that $44 million signing bonus over as long of a time frame as possible. We would be looking at about $87 million over the first three years of this contract, and the Steelers would guarantee his 2020 base salary of $15.5 million for injury.
What are your thoughts on his prediction? What would you give Roethlisberger if you were calling the shot, and how would you make it fair for both sides? Let us know in the comment section below!