On Sunday, the two contracts with the Pittsburgh Steelers signed by Miles Killebrew and Cassius Marsh had their exact numbers reported by Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle.
Miles Killebrew (Steelers) one year, $1.127M, $137,500 signing bonus, salary $990K— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 28, 2021
Cassius Marsh (Steelers) one year, $1.175M, $100K signing bonus, salary 1.075M— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 28, 2021
With both salaries coming in at a little over $1 million, they actually do not count as much on the 2021 salary cap as what each player is being paid. This is because both salaries qualify for the veteran salary benefit.
What exactly is the veteran salary benefit? Here is an explanation given by frontofficenfl.com:
Veteran salary benefit: Formerly known as the minimum salary benefit, the veteran salary benefit allow teams to offer a “Qualifying Contract” to any player with at least four credited seasons at a reduced salary cap hit. Under this provision, a qualifying contract is a one-year deal worth the minimum base salary applicable to a player with his number of credited seasons, plus $137,500 in additional compensation (i.e., signing bonus, roster bonus, incentive, etc. — amount begins to increase in 2022). These contracts are charged against the salary cap at the rate of a player with two credited seasons that league year.
These two players are not the first ones on the Steelers this season to fall under the veterans salary benefit as B.J. Finney salary has been listed exactly the same as Miles Killebrew according to overthecap.com.
Now where do the Steelers currently stand with the 2021 salary cap? Before free agency kicked off, the Steelers were little more than $6 million under the salary cap. Since then, the number has fluctuated due to various moves.
To determine how much each player changes the Steelers’ salary cap space, their cap number must be adjusted due to roster displacement. As a reminder, roster displacement is taking into account only the top 51 contracts for a team count towards the salary cap during the offseason. As a larger contract comes on the books, it bumps a smaller contract out of the top 51. Therefore, it’s only the difference in those contracts that increases the salary cap number. With the latest two moves, the Steelers displaced the last $660k salary and have now moved into the $780k group, meaning displacement amounts will be slightly lower.
Here is the approximate breakdown of the Steelers salary cap space based on their recent moves by my own calculations. The numbers are strictly the salary cap hit for each player in 2021.
Steelers salary cap space heading into free agency: Approximately $6 million
Ray-Ray McCloud: Reported $1 million salary; After displacement: -$0.34 million
B.J. Finney: Reported $987,500; After displacement: -$0.3275 million
Cam Sutton: New report of $1.7 million; After displacement: -$1.04 million
Zach Banner: Reported $2.875 million; After displacement: -$2.215 million
Vince Williams: Saved $4 million salary; After displacement: +$3.34 million
Chris Wormley: Reported $1.6 million; After displacement: -$0.94 million
JuJu Smith-Schuster: Reported $2.4 million; After displacement: -$1.74 million
Tyler Simmons: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Joe Haeg: Reported $1.5 million; After displacement: -$0.84 million
Miles Killebrew: Reported $987,500; After displacement: -$0.3275 million
Steven Nelson: Saved $8.25 million salary; After displacement: +$7.59 million
Cassius Marsh: Reported $950,000; After displacement: -$0.17 million
Eric Ebron: No official contract renegotiation
Tyson Alualu: No exact report
Approximate salary cap space: Approximately $9 million
Note: Miles Killebrew was the final contract displace a $660k salary and Cassius Marsh is the first player who displaced a $780k salary.
So where does this number compare to those reported by the major salary cap websites?
According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $8,195,086 under the salary cap. OTC has all of the above contracts on the books, but for some reason they have the number lower than it should be. Even when adding up the Steelers’ top 51 salaries and dead money owed this year, their own numbers don’t make sense to come in where they are.
Another credible salary cap website is spotrac.com, which has the Steelers at $10,081,703 under the cap. Spotrac does not have contract numbers for McCloud, Finney, Killebrew, and Marsh (total cost of $1.165 million), hence why their number is a little higher.
While it has been reported that Eric Ebron has reworked his deal to save $3.9 million against the salary cap, there has not been anything officially reported at this time. Also, the return of Tyson Alualu has not had any official numbers currently reported. It has been reported the deal is for less than he was offered by Jacksonville which carried a $2.4 million cap hit this season, so this number is a pretty safe high estimate, meaning when both contracts come through the Steelers should save at least another $1.5 million.
While the Steelers are going to need cap space for a number of things this offseason, it doesn’t have to be at this time. Following the NFL draft, the Steelers will begin signing their draft picks and are estimated to need no more than $2.75 million in cap space once figuring roster displacement. But remember, the Steelers won’t need this amount until at least May. Also, the Steelers will need as much as an additional $10 million (a very high estimate, with $7 million coming in on the low end) come September when they need to account for all 53 players on the roster, sign their practice squad, and have some carryover in order to do business throughout the year.
So the Steelers now have a lot more breathing room under the salary cap, at least for now. Other moves could still be on the horizon as the Steelers have plenty more to do to shape their 2021 roster. It might not be long before you hear from me again as things continue to change.