Just a note to point out that the FA & Draft posts at the beginning of this thread will be updated daily as new information comes to hand.
So here we are, closing in on the Super Bowl, or, more importantly (for Steelers fans), the beginning of the new season.
The Steelers are faced with the daunting prospect of trying to get under the Salary Cap- potentially some $16m to clear in order to comply, while still retaining the RFA's & ERFA's, which traditionally they will do. The cap is reported to be $121m, the Steelers currently sit at $129m. With 5 restricted, and 2 Exclusive Rights FA's, they will add up to around $7.8m- so roughly, $16m over the cap. To make matters worse- that is the total for 42 players.
That's not even contemplating re-signing their own FA's. Or rookies.
In order to sign their own FA's, and the rookies, the Steelers will need to do some serious Cap surgery. Essentially, the Steelers need to make room for 11 salaries- and half of those would be rookie salaries, to get to the 53 roster positions filled. How much will they need? Hard to say, but realistically- at least around $10m, or even $15m additionally to the $16 the Steelers are over.
How the Hell will Omar do that?
Well, let's see...
Firstly, the easy one. Restructure Ben. By simply converting his salary to a bonus, the Steelers save $7m in 2013 against the Cap.
Secondly- restructure LaMarr Woodley & Lawrence Timmons again. Some want to cut Woodley- but that won't happen. By turning their collective 2013 Salaries into Bonus payments, the Steelers will save $9m against the Cap.
Combined with Ben, that's $16m saved. (Yes, the piper must be paid eventually, but this gets 2013 going at the least).
Now it gets tougher.
Cutting James Harrison will save $5.1m of his $10m+ cap hit. Restructuring Harrison seems unlikely, as it will have to involve extending a contract on a 34 year old player. So cutting him makes most sense. They may look to re-sign him to a much smaller deal, and here's betting they will try, but how much less will Harrison accept?
Restructuring Willie Colon- it's a risk, given his injury history. Cutting him outright only saves $1.2m, which may not be enough of a saving. Restructuring his contract saves $3m, however.
Restructuring Troy Polamalu- again, a risk given age & injury history- but he's such an outstanding player, it might be worth the risk. Turning his salary into a bonus saves a further $3.2m against the Cap.
So, $16m + $5.1m + $3m + $3.2m = $27.3m
We're now pretty close to where the Steelers need to be.
That said, re-signing Keenan Lewis, Max Starks, Larry Foote or even James Harrison (if cut) might require further money.
Other candidates for restructures include:
Heath Miller- saves $3.5m (approx)
Antonio Brown- Saves $3m (approx)
Or candidates for cuts include:
Ike Taylor- saves $6m
Brett Keisel- saves $2.85m
Ryan Clark- saves $3.5m
Shaun Suisham- saves $1.5m
Jerricho Cotchery- saves $1m
(These figures may not be 'exact', but pretty close... Chadman thinks)
It could be a case where the Steelers need to make a tough decision between re-signing Keenan Lewis or keeping Ike Taylor- as the cost of Lewis, one of the premier FA's on the market, might be similar to the savings made in cutting the older Taylor. How seriously do the Steelers want Lewis back?
Chadman's prediction is this:
The Steelers will restructure or even extend Ben's contract. ($7m)
The Steelers will restructure Woodley & Timmons contracts. ($9m)
The Steelers will restructure Colon's contract. ($3m)
The Steelers will restructure Polamalu's contract. ($3.2m)
The Steelers will restructure Antonio Brown's contract. ($3m)
The Steelers will extend Heath Miller's contract. (approx $2.5m)
The Steelers will cut Jerricho Cotchery. ($1m)
The Steelers will cut James Harrison. ($5.1m)
This will reduce the Cap by $33.8m, which puts the Steelers $17.8m under the Cap before they sign anybody.
Of that $17.8m, there will be the Rookie Cap (last year it was $5.13m), so let's predict it will sit, at worst... around $6m. That leaves $11.8m to sign 6-7 players to fill the roster (after adding 7 rookies, and removing Harrison & Cotchery).
Now, if the Steelers sign Larry Foote to a Vet Minimum contract, say around the $800k area, that brings the team to $11m.
Plaxico could be signed to a similar deal, but moved up the depth chart to replace Cotchery. Approx $10m, with 5 roster spots to fill.
The Steelers might be inclined to try & sign Emmanual Sanders to a longer contract, along with Steve McLendon as both would move into starting roles. While it would increase their cap cost, Chadman would guess no more than by $2-$3m combined. That leaves, worst case scenario, $7m to sign 5 players.
$7m to sign 5 players.
Of those potential 5 players, the Steelers would likely want to make a play at Keenan Lewis. That might take a significant chunk of that $7m. This is where the value of Lewis vs Taylor vs Allen will come into play.
From what we saw last year, Cortez Allen might not be far away from starting, so going with him next season is... well, likely. So who do the Steelers pick? Lewis or Taylor. If the Steelers cut Taylor to sign Lewis, it might still free up that $7m we talked about earlier to sign Max Starks, or a RB, or a WR, or a TE.
If the Steelers decide to sign Lewis without cutting Taylor, then you can pretty much assume every other player remaining to fill the roster will be Vet Minimum guys.
Or are the Steelers kidding themselves regarding Lewis & he's realistically on the same plane that Wallace & Mendenhall booked flights on?
What do you guys think?
Not real familiar with the financial end of the NFL, but can the Steelers offer K. Lewis a very cap-friendly deal and a huge bonus thus enabling them to keep him and Ike? In other words, more money in bonus than $$/year?
But in today's NFL, how often does the dollar lose out? Keeping Lewis will be tough, and it might involve making tougher decisions.
I don't know if the Steelers are willing to spend so much on one player like lewis who IMHO only had 3 quarters of this season playing good football. There is no guarantee he will duplicate what he did during the close of the 2012 season next year, so I think the Steelers might let him look at offers from other teams.
Ike Taylor didn't just play well for a portion of a season, he showed he was our best cover corner and its likely he will play out his contact here.
Cortez Allen showed he is capable of playing the position opposite Ike, and is Lewis that much better than Allen? I would think not and look for the Steelers to draft a CB early if a good one is available when we pick.
Xavier Rhodes is a real good prospect has good coverage skills and can hit, if we had the shot to get him @ 17 they may go in that direction and save a boatload of cash instead of signing Lewis.
Drafting a CB is a strong possibility- but where? And what do the Steelers think they have in Victorian, Brown & Van Dyke?
As for Harrison, he has already stated that he would be willing to restructure to stay. Now, for many contracts that would simply mean pushing salary into bonus to lower the cap hit, but I think that Harrison understands that he would require a reduction as a restructure. I think that he is embarrassed by his results the last two seasons and would take less - say $2.5M - to show that he is still the player he was. That leaves one more year afterwards if the Steelers retain him beyond 2013. That would pare $4M off of the cap. This puts us $1.4M ahead of where you predicted, and takes us out from under the behemoth that is the Colon contract.
Beyond that, the number one target has to be Keenan Lewis. He will receive an unusual type of offer (as far as the Steelers go) with a huge amount up front in SB. I would expect something in the neighborhood of 5 years, $40M, with around $16M in SB. With a first year salary around $800K, and a pro-rated SB hit of $3.2M, that gives him a manageable cap hit of $4M in 2013.
I don't think they can take a run at Starks as he won't be a one year contract anymore. They have to put their kids in position to play at some point and this will be the year.
This is a no brainer...young up and coming DB or an aging DB? You sign Lewis. If you need to cut a DB, you cut Ike.
Everything hinges on whether they sign Lewis. I doubt they would keep both Taylor and Lewis so we'll have to see.
If they keep Ike and let Lewis go or the other way aound we'll need a replacement at CB. Victorian, Brown, and Van Dyke are all projects and neither one is dependable to think they can step in.
Xavier Rhodes is better than all three of them, he's big, physical, and can cover something we'll need with an average D-line and the potential loss of Harrison.
As shawn pointed out if its a choice between Ike and Lewis, go with the younger guy, but even then we'll still need a reliable backup.