As the Steelers deal with the practical consequences of a mismanaged cap situation, two of the team’s key players are next in line to “restructure” their contracts.
According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and linebacker James Harrison could join cornerback Ike Taylor and linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons in creating cap space via adjustments to their deals.
Roethlisberger is due to earn a base salary of $11.6 million in 2012. Harrison’s contract calls for a base rate of $5.565 million next season.
Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, tells the Tribune-Review that the soon-to-be 34-year-old linebacker would be “very willing to help.”
For a so-called “simple restructuring,” who wouldn’t be “very willing to help”? Under such arrangements, the player gets most of his compensation for the year now, with only the minimum salary based on his level of experience deferred until the 17 paychecks issued during football season.
But restructurings merely push today’s cap problems into the future, driving up a player’s cap number in subsequent seasons and forcing the team to continue to deal with the issue. At some point, the Steelers need to take pay away from players, either by cutting them or reducing their pay under the threat of a release.
The obvious candidates are receiver Hines Ward ($4 million base salary in 2012), defensive end Aaron Smith ($2.1 million), nose tackle Casey Hampton ($4.89 million), tackle Willie Colon ($4.5 million), linebacker Larry Foote ($3 million), and guard Chris Kemoeatu ($3.577 million).
Part of the problem, as pointed out Tuesday, is that one of the Steelers’ best players has no contract for 2012, because of the Steelers’ prior habit of signing all draft picks taken after round two to three-year contracts. With the elimination of the restricted free agency tender that holds a guy in place for a one-year salary of less than $3 million and sets compensation if he leaves at a first-round and third-round pick, the Steelers now have to consider paying Wallace $9.5 million or so for 2012.
They’ll face the problem again in 2013 with 2011 team MVP Antonio Brown, who signed a three-year deal in 2010.
Though it’s not popular in Pittsburgh to say anything critical about the Steelers, fans should be wondering why the Steelers weren’t willing to impose four-year contracts on all draft picks at a time when pretty much every other team was doing it. Yes, the practice saves a little money because the signing bonus applies to three years and not four. But with Wallace and Brown now in position to put the Steelers over a barrel in each of the next two seasons, it would have made much more sense to spend the money necessary to sign guys to four-year contracts.