With cap numbers of $18.895 and $18.395 million, respectively, over the final two years of his current contract, most assume that the Steelers’ annual effort to create cap room via renegotiating quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s deal will entail a contract extension.
Owner Art Rooney II told a trio of reporters on Wednesday that there won’t necessarily be an extension.
Via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Rooney said that Roethlisberger knows “our intention is we want him here beyond this contact.” But Rooney added that the team possibly won’t extend the current contract in 2014 or 2015.
The Steelers have at times extended the contracts of starting quarterbacks with two years remaining. But Rooney said that’s “not set in stone . . . it’s not something that’s automatic.”
The shrewd message from Rooney is that the Steelers will find a way to carry Roethlisberger’s cap number if necessary, which means that he’d make only $12.1 million in base salary for 2014. And that undercuts Roethlisberger’s primary leverage for a contract that would pay him, if he had his way, at or close to market value of $18 million to $20 million per year.
If the Steelers keep Roethlisberger at $12.1 million in 2014 and $11.6 million in 2015, he’d be two years older — with two more years of wear and tear — when finally eligible to test the market. The downside would be that, if the Steelers wanted to use the franchise tag in 2016, he’d be entitled to a 20-percent raise of his $18.395 million cap number, which equates to $22.074 million.
Regardless, the message (for now) from the Steelers is that they don’t need to extend the deal (even if their cap situation otherwise says they do). Which would keep Roethlisberger’s pay for the coming year at only (only?) $12.1 million.
It’s also possible that the Steelers would ask him to do one more so-called “simple” restructuring, which would result in the conversion of a portion of his $12.1 million salary to an offseason signing bonus. Because only one year remains on the current deal, half the amount would count against this year’s salary cap, and the other half would hit the cap next year.
Of course, Roethlisberger could choose to decline to take a lump sum in the offseason, arguing instead that it’s time for an extension. If that would happen, things could quickly get interesting.