The start of the 2023 NFL league year is still al month and a half away. Kicking in at 4 PM on Wednesday, March 15, all teams must be under the salary cap by that time. Last year teams were not informed of the exact salary cap until a week before the legal tampering period for free agency began. This year, it seems that teams will have much longer to prepare although there will still be a few minor details to iron out.
On Monday, teams were reportedly informed by the NFL that the 2023 salary cap will be set at $224.8 million. This information came from NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
The NFL informed teams today that the 2023 salary cap will be a record $224.8 million per club, sources tell me and @RapSheet.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 30, 2023
That’s up from $208.2 million in 2022, $182.5M in 2021 (COVID adjustment), 198.2M in 2020 and $188.2M in 2019.
Coming in at $224.8 million, the cap is now $16.6 million higher than 2021 and $42.3 million high from when the salary cap went down in 2021. For those websites who report on the salary cap such as Over The Cap (OTC) and Spotrac, their estimated cap of $225 million was as close as one could expect.
Now that the number is known for this coming season, exactly where do the Steelers stand when it comes to the salary cap? What are all the other factors involved to determine how much space the Steelers have when it comes to retaining their own players over the next six weeks?
For one, the number is not as simple as $224.8 million. The Steelers also have rollover from the 2022 season where they did not use all of their salary cap space and it is credited to them in 2022. Earlier this month, ESPN’s Field Yates reported the expected rollover for all 32 teams.
NFL teams recently declared unused 2022 cap space rollover amounts (below).— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 12, 2023
After the playoffs, the NFL will audit incentives, bonuses, etc by team. That figure will be added/subtracted to the number below.
The sum + the 2023 Salary Cap = each team's 2023 adjusted cap number. pic.twitter.com/GJC8E7EsrO
While this was the initial number set for teams, Yates made mention of any adjustments that would come after the postseason. For the Steelers this is possible but will likely be minimal. For example, last season the Steelers had an adjustment of $80k in their favor.
Another number which contributes to the salary cap is where the NFL sets aside workout bonuses paid to players if they participate in offseason programs. This money comes out of a team’s salary cap, but any that is unused will be credited back, typically during training camp.
Once all these numbers are known, it comes down to the top 51 salaries of players currently under contract for the Steelers which count towards the current salary cap. Additionally, any dead money from players must also be subtracted.
With all these things explained, here are the current numbers for the Steelers 2023 salary cap as reported by OTC and Spotrac.
2023 salary cap: $224.8 million
Estimated adjusted salary cap:
Both: $229,227,145 ($4,427,145 in rollover)
Dead money for 2023:
Over The Cap: $5,928,814
Estimated current 2023 salary cap space:
Over The Cap: $1,028,747
As I’ve continued to state this offseason, neither one of these sites is perfect. OTC currently has a player on the Steelers roster who is actually on the Saints roster, and they leave about $500k off the Steelers dead money as they do not count some of the smaller contracts that Spotrac does. But those smaller amounts add up.
As for Spotrac, their biggest problem is they continue to count Stephon Tuitt’s $4.755 million hit twice because they have him both on the roster and as dead money. After looking at roster displacement, this is a difference of almost $4 million. Taking those two things into consideration, the two numbers are very close. But the two sites also vary in some of the futures contracts of exactly how much some players cost.
As the offseason gets closer to the new league year, if you read any of my salary cap articles I start off with a specific estimated cap space. The reason I prefer to keep the salary cap estimated is because of small differences in specific dollar amounts in reported contracts which don’t really become a big factor in when looking at the big picture of the salary cap. At this time I’m not ready to lock in my number to start the 2023 season because of several other factors such as workout bonuses. But if I were forced to do so, that number would be around $0.5 million.
As I have done with my reports earlier this offseason, I will include a list of players that could generate some extra cap space if released. Just because the Steelers could save money does not mean they would, or even should, part ways with some of these players. The list consists of players who would save at least $2 million and have a significantly higher cap savings than dead money hit.
William Jackson III:
$12.176471 million savings; $0 dead money
$8 million savings; $2.625 million dead money
$8 million savings; $3.25 million dead money
$4 million savings; $1.4825 million dead money
$4 million savings; $1.4825 million dead money
$2.5 million savings; $0.7325 million dead money
$2 million savings; $0.4825 million dead money
$2 million savings; $0.6175 million dead money
These eight players would save the Steelers about $42.5 million dollars, but they would have to be replaced. While some players will likely be released, some could be re-signed while others will simply be retained with their current contract.
NOTE: Any release of these players would also be reduced by the amount of the player moving into the top 51 (roster displacement). At this time with the current roster makeup it would be $870k. So the release of a player with a $2 million cap savings would add $1.13 million in cap space.