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Reviewing contract extensions, restructures, and other terms

As the Steelers look to do business int he coming weeks, it’s time to review some contract vocabulary to better understand their moves.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Oakland Raiders Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

This article is not for everyone. There are some who very much understand the ins and outs of NFL contracts and the terminology therein. Others, might not understand it quite as much and therefore looking at these terms would be beneficial.

While I believe there are a lot of people in the first group, there are some who I think that would be that are quite surprisingly not. I’ve seen several places reporting about a possible restructure of Ben Roethlisberger‘s contract for 2021. I’ve seen it from various outlets and even on ESPN. The problem is, Ben Roethlisberger can’t restructure his contract in a way that would be beneficial to him and the Steelers. There are things that need to be done with Roethlisberger‘s contract, but a restructure is not the proper term.

Here are some key terms when it comes to contracts you may be seeing over the next several weeks as the Steelers make moves to be salary cap compliant before the beginning of the 2021 NFL league year on March 17.


Done on Monday by the Steelers in regards to Cam Heyward, a contract restructure is simply taking money designated to be paid in one form and changing it into another. Although a restructure could technically pay a player more or less money, this is usually not the case. In a typical restructure, money being paid to a player as part of their base salary, roster bonus, per game bonus, or other bonuses the player is likely to gain are converted into a signing bonus. By doing this, the signing bonus is spread out evenly over the number of years remaining in the contract. If a player is paid a $15 million signing bonus and has three years remaining on their contract, then $5 million will be counted towards each year.

When a player does a full restructure, they generally only have the league minimum salary for their years of service which will be paid per game and the rest of their salary is converted into a signing bonus. This is done simply to spread out the salary cap implications and does not pay the player any less. Instead, the player gets paid the majority of their salary for the season upfront before games are played.


When a player is still under contract, they can sign a contract extension which adds years onto the number of seasons they have remaining on their deal. If a player were to sign a three-year contract extension as they are coming into the final year of their deal, they would be under contract for four more seasons. Many times when a player does a contract extension, it is coupled with a restructure of the final year of their current deal, but does not have to be the case. This is one, and the most likely, possibility the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger could use going forward as the extension would cause the restructure to be spread out over additional years.

New Contract

Sometimes when a player has a year or more left on their current contract, rather than work out an extension beyond what they have they just throw out what is left of the old contract and have an all new contract instead. If a player has one year left on their deal and signed a new deal for three years, they are under contract for only three years and not a fourth year as it would be if it was an extension onto their previous contract.

Renegotiated Contract

If you have ever heard this term, it is generally just a generic term when doing one or more of the contracts listed above. By changing the terms of the contract, it is either a restructure, extension, or new new contract.

Hopefully there were some clarity brought to these explanations in regards to how they work with various Steelers players moving forward for the 2021 offseason. Players like Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward are ones who would see a restructure while other players such as David DeCastro, Steven Nelson, or Joe Haden could see a contract extension. Exactly how the Steelers are going to handle these contracts this offseason remains to be seen, other than the case of Heyward. One thing is for sure is the Steelers are not done reworking contracts prior to the start of the new league year.