Thereafter, ESPN.com claimed that a clause in Ward’s contract requires a decision to be made by March 1. A source with knowledge of the contract tells PFT that’s simply not true.
The contract contains no clause that would, for example, make any portion of Ward’s salary guaranteed or compel the Steelers to pay him a seven-figure bonus, or any bonus for that matter, as of March 1. Instead, the contract promises Ward a non-guaranteed base salary of $4 million, which would become fully guaranteed under the labor deal only if he’s on the Week One roster.
Thus, as long as the Steelers are willing and able to carry the $4 million under the salary cap, which kicks in for the 2012 league year on March 13, they will be able retain Ward.
The source also tells PFT that the Steelers have yet to make a decision on Ward. With Ward publicly stating that he’s willing to cut his pay, the Steelers could ask him to drop his salary to the 10-plus-year veteran minimum of $925,000.
In fact, the Steelers could reduce the cap hit arising from his 2012 base salary of $925,000 all the way to $540,000 by cutting Ward and re-signing him to a one-year contract pursuant to the terms of Article 27 of the CBA, which encourages the retention of veteran players by utilizing in certain circumstances the minimum salary for a second-year player as the cap number.
The ultimate questions are whether Ward would be willing to drop his pay to $925,000, and whether the Steelers would be willing to spend that much. At this point, those questions haven’t been answered.