If Ben Roethlisberger keeps playing, the Steelers will need to figure out how to reduce his $41.25 million cap number

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Steelers coach Mike Tomlin claimed on Wednesday that he’s not fully aware of the dynamics regarding quarterback Ben Roethlisberger‘s cap charge for 2021.

“I don’t have a clear assessment of the overall impact of the cap ramifications, so I might not have a direct answer to your question,” Tomlin said. “But I think it is reasonable to assume that there is a chance that he will be back, certainly. The depths of the ramifications of the cap discussions, I am not privy to as I sit here right now.”

If Tomlin is reading this, here’s the reality: Roethlisberger’s cap charge for 2021 is $41.25 million.

If Roethlisberger retires, it’s still $22.25 million. The challenge becomes, if Ben continues his career, coming up with an extension that will, as a practical matter, put the final charge somewhere between $22.25 million and $41.25 million.

The $22.75 million represents the floor, since it’s the final installment of his most recent signing bonus ($12.5 million) and his most recent restructuring bonus ($9.75 million). Roethlisberger earns a roster bonus of $15 million on the third day of the 2021 league year, along with a $4 million base salary during the regular season. The flexibility comes from reconfiguring that $19 million into amounts that apply to the current cap and to future caps.

With a minimum salary of $1.075 million for players with seven or more years of experience, the Steelers could convert $17.925 million into a signing bonus that would be spread over time. The question then becomes how much of that amount will apply to 2021, and how much will apply to future years.

For example, if the Steelers give Ben a new four-year contract with three dummy years, they can chop the $17.925 million into four equal chunks of $4.48 million each. This would drive the 2021 cap number to $26.73 million and push $13.44 million into future years. Then, if 2021 becomes his final year, the $13.44 million charge would apply in 2022.

While $26.73 million wouldn’t hurt as much as $41.25 million, it’s still a significant cap charge. And remember this: Ben would have to agree to a new deal. If he says, “I’ll just honor my contract,” the Steelers would have to figure out whether to pay him $15 million on March 19 or cut him.

Under that scenario, he would be guaranteed to owe Pittsburgh none of the $12.5 million in unearned signing bonus money.

If cut, would Ben Roethlisberger play for another team? Probably not, but we would have said the same thing about Brett Favre and Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers and Tom Brady.

So these are the options: Retire, return on the remaining deal, extend the contract to drop the cap charge, or tear up the remainder of the contract and make Ben a free agent, for the first time in his career.

14 responses to “If Ben Roethlisberger keeps playing, the Steelers will need to figure out how to reduce his $41.25 million cap number

  1. Can we have a clear assessment on how to get Tomlin out the door? Top defense in the league and you can’t get it done.

  2. I dont know how much had to do with injuries or if he will look any better than he did at the emd of the season but if he became a free agent there would definitely be teams willing to sign him especially this offseason.

  3. Any coach that does not know what he is paying his Quarterback should not be in the league.

  4. Cowboys fan here. I hated the clapper but as you can see in Dallas, the grass is not always greener on the other side

  5. May need to reduce his cap hit??? They’re projected to be like $30M over the cap next year.

  6. Wow just wow 41 million for an over the hill noodle arm QB who’s an interception waiting to happen. I think the Steelers are getting ready to take over the Bengals spot as bottom feeder for many many years in the AFC north.

  7. My opinion….Ben’s not going anywhere. They’ll have to carry him out with that kind of money on the table. I hope he does come back. With his diminishing skills, the Steelers will stink or at least be mediocre for a while, which helps the other AFC teams 🙂

  8. He’s the Eli Manning of the Steelers. Playing well past his prime, and killing the cap.

  9. haters have been looking at their watches the past 16 years waiting for the steelers to finally decline. I guess losing a playoff game is the ultimate humilation, coming from fans of teams who didn’t even make playoffs and haven’t for a long time.

  10. The one-and-done imploding NFL flops are wasting $41 million in cap space to keep this dinosaur on the field? This is like a dream come true.

  11. Like, hate or are indifferent towards the Steelers; if you’re an honest football fan you’ll know that Ben will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. And during Ben’s career, taking all the years, I believe only the Patriots had a better W/L record (maybe the Colts but they’ve had some real mediocre years since Manning left or perhaps the Packers) than Ben’s Steelers. Ben has had a helluva career.

    But if you’re honest you’re also honest you’ll know that what made Ben great really no longer exists. His ability to allude guys all around him is effectively gone and his arm has shown a significant decline. Sure you can get away with only the very short passing game against the dregs of the league (Bengals) during the regular season, but in the playoffs against the cream of the crop, your limitations get exposed.

    Time for the Steelers to move on. Any further delay only delays (and it may compound) when the next long term starting QB can and will be found.

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