As pointed out late last night (or possibly early this morning), the Steelers have created $11.7 million in cap space by restructuring the contracts of linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons. But they reportedly needed to clear more than $25 million.
So where will the other $13 million come from?
Based on a review of base salaries published by the NFLPA, several players could face not just a restructuring (which cost Woodley and Timmons none of their money) but a pay cut or an outright release.
Here’s a list of the large Steelers salaries that could be trimmed down, one way or another: tackle Willie Colon ($4.5 million); linebacker Larry Foote ($3 million); nose tackle Casey Hampton ($4.89 million); linebacker James Harrison ($5.565 million); guard Chris Kemoeatu ($3.577 million); quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ($11.6 million); offensive lineman Jonathan Scott ($2.2 million); defensive end Aaron Smith ($2.1 million); and receiver Hines Ward ($4 million).
Ward has said he’d be willing to take a pay cut to stay with the team. He may have to make that decision sooner rather than later.
For any players who are released, the base salary and other 2012 compensation that the Steelers would avoid would have to be compared to any acceleration resulting from past signing bonuses.
Get used to the return of such concerns. Under the 2006 CBA, most teams stayed far enough under the cap to avoid these concerns. In 2010, there was no salary cap at all. Starting in 2012, multiple teams could be playing a salary cap shell game in order to hold teams together now, even if it means having to eventually cut players they want to keep or refrain from signing free agents they covet.