Contract situations

by Dale Lolley
MONDAY, JANUARY 07, 2013

With the Steelers roughly 13 or so million dollars over next year's salary cap of $120 or so million, they will have some juggling to do to get under the cap and still be able to resign potential free agents, offer tenders to their restricted and exclusive rights free agents and sign their rookie class.

Here are the top 10 salaries headed into next year:

Cap Number

Ben Roethlisberger $19.6
LaMarr Woodley $13.2
Lawrence Timmons $11.16
Troy Polamalu $10.1
James Harrison $10.03
Ike Taylor $9.45
Heath Miller $7.95
Willie Colon $7.65
Antonio Brown $6.2
Ryan Clark $4.75

As you can see, the top of the pay scale tips heavily toward the defense - particularly in favor of the linebackers. That group of 10 players also accounts for roughly $100 million of the team's salary cap for 2013, leaving just $20 million to fill out the rest of the roster.

Now, there is some wiggle room there, such as turning base salary into signing bonus - something the Steelers have done quite a bit of in the past. The only problem with that is you have to be sure the player is going to be part of your plans in future seasons because it increases their cap hit down the road.

For example, a simple restructure for Roethlisberger would make sense, since you could turn his base salary into bonus money and save $7.1 million.

For a player such as Harrison, however, the savings would only be $2.8 million. And with Harrison at 35, that's probably not the way to go.

Just doing a simple restructure on all of their top 10 contracts - at least the ones they would be able to do so with - and the Steelers could create nearly $36 million in cap space.

But, that includes restructuring Harrison, Polamalu and Taylor - Clark can't be done since he is only signed through next season.

Take those three out of the equation, and you're looking at $27.2 million in savings, plenty enough wiggle room to do everything they need in the offseason without releasing any veterans.

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