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Steelers 2015 contracts and salary cap issues

In the postmortem of the season talk quickly turns to who fans think should be cut and which free agents the team should go after. With that in mind now seems like a good time to visit the Steelers salary cap and see what money might be available ....

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Not even a full day after the Steelers exit from the playoffs and there have been multiple posts on message boards calling for various players to be cut. Some of the names are not even under contract for 2015 and others are so locked in to contracts there is no chance they will be waived.

We lasted visited the Steelers salary cap situation for 2015 back in August but there have been a few signings since that time that have added to the books for next year. With so many extensions this past off season there are fewer big names facing free agency than in years past although there are still are couple of positions that could be looking for new starters in 2015.

While evaluating the Steelers salary cap position it has been based around a rather conservative estimate of $140 million for 2015. Some NFL observers have suggested it could go as high as $150 million but it seems fair to assume it will not be lower than our conservative estimate so this gives us a worst case scenario to work from.

Steelers 2015 Salary Cap
Quarterbacks Cap Hit In 2015 Saving If Cut Contract Length
1 Ben Roethlisberger $18,395,000 $11,600,000 1
2 Bruce Gradkowski $1,833,334 $1,550,000 1
3 Landry Jones $694,805 $475,195 2
Running Backs
4 Le'Veon Bell $1,123,800 $435,400 2
5 Dri Archer $644,504 $264,992 3
Wide Receivers
6 Antonio Brown $9,787,500 $125,000 3
7 Lance Moore $1,822,500 $1,500,000 1
8 Markus Wheaton $752,844 $457,156 2
9 Martavis Bryant $619,805 $290,390 3
Tight Ends
10 Heath Miller $5,666,666 $2,333,332 2
Offensive Line
11 Maurkice Pouncey $8,100,000 ($2,300,000) 5
12 Marcus Gilbert $6,980,000 $860,000 4
13 David DeCastro $2,486,240 $1,455,531 1
14 Ramon Foster $2,150,000 $1,850,000 1
15 Cody Wallace $1,250,000 $950,000 2
16 Mike Adams $1,127,525 $873,225 1
17 Kelvin Beachum $671,474 $660,000 1
Defensive Line
18 Cameron Heyward $6,969,000 $6,969,000 1
19 Steve McLendon $2,808,334 $2,250,000 1
20 Cam Thomas $2,500,000 $2,000,000 1
21 Brett Keisel $1,750,000 $1,500,000 1
22 Stephon Tuitt $1,047,601 ($836,162) 3
23 Daniel McCullers $529,670 $470,660 3
24 Lawrence Timmons $12,566,250 $4,433,750 2
25 Jarvis Jones $2,374,228 ($2,769,933) 2
26 Ryan Shazier $2,160,728 ($5,617,894) 3
27 Sean Spence $816,345 $680,000 1
28 Vince Williams $604,670 $565,330 2
29 Jordan Zumwalt $536,213 $457,574 3
Defensive Backs
30 Troy Polamalu $8,250,000 $3,750,000 2
31 Cortez Allen $6,981,000 $1,581,000 4
32 Mike Mitchell $4,950,000 $1,150,000 4
33 William Gay $1,666,668 $1,500,000 1
34 Shamarko Thomas $698,288 $471,712 2
35 BW Webb $585,000 $585,000 2
36 Ross Ventrone $585,000 $585,000 2
Special Teams
37 Shaun Suisham $3,665,000 $1,385,000 2
Dead Money
Lamarr Woodley $8,580,000
LeGarrette Blount $475,000
Shaquille Richardson $142,539
Wesley Johnson $108,420
Rob Blanchflower $44,550
Nicholas Williams $28,924
David Paulson $11,474
Howard Jones $6,667
Eric Waters $5,000
Josh Mauro $5,000
Roy Philon $4,000
Brendon Kay $3,334
Ethan Hemer $3,334
Will Simmons $3,334
Chris Elkins $2,667
Salary Cap Total $135,574,235
Salary Cap Adjustment $0
2011/12 Cap Payback $1,125,000
2014 Salary Cap Rollover $778,469
2015 Salary Cap $140,000,000
Under Cap $4,079,234

It is worth noting that this only represent 37 players under contract. With 9 players on the practice squad likely to sign futures contracts along with other free agents to get to 51 players under contract and that cap space quickly goes away. The league minimum in 2015 will be $435,000 - So 14 additional players at minimum salary adds another $6,090,000 to the cap.

In practical terms this means the Steelers will approximately $2 million OVER the cap as they start looking at the 2015 cap.

In no way is this as problematic as it may first appear on paper to get under the cap while still making a run at one or two free agents but what is does show when looking at the numbers above is the high cap dollars being paid to players that are under performing relative to their deals.

The extensions given to both Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller certainly could be questioned given they were due to be entering the final year of their deals this year but now are both under contract for two more seasons at a high rate. Do both Cortez Allen and Mike Mitchell stay on what can be seen as high paying contracts especially if, as in Allen's case, he is not even a starter? Both have deals that could be voided prior to the 2015 season and save paying roster bonuses due early in the new financial year.

Big Ben seems very likely to have his contracted extended, something we will investigate in more detail separately, but any extension should come with significant cap savings in its first year. Cameron Heyward is set to earn a decent wage next year too but is another candidate for a long term extension that could come with cap savings in 2015 as well.

With a number of players along the offensive line entering the final year of their deals some decisions need to be made there although it is more likely David DeCastro has his option picked up like Heyward did this year given the high price he is likely to command.

Cam Thomas looks like a good candidate to be cut given the $2 million in savings that such a cut would come with and the lack of production he put on tape. With the emergence of Bryant does Lance Moore keep his roster spot or does the $1.5 million in cap space he creates have more value elsewhere? Does The Beard have another year left in him, does he even want to play or does the $1.5 million in cap savings without him have more use?

While the playoffs may have been somewhat anti climatic for Steeler fans it would appear the off season will be its usual turbulent self as the front office has a lot of moves to make before the 2015 version of the team can take the field.

Currently the Steelers have the 8th lowest amount of cap space heading into 2015 of all teams in the NFL. The Browns by comparison have $55 million with the 3rd most cap space available and the Ravens the 9th lowest with about $8.5 million in cap space.

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