In 2015, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning agreed to reduce his $19 million in total pay to $15 million. The $4 million haircut wasn’t unconditional; Manning had the ability to make every penny back if the Broncos won the Super Bowl. They did, and he did.
In 2021, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has agreed to reduce his $19 million in total pay to $14 million. The $5 million haircut is unconditional. Even if the Steelers win the Super Bowl, Roethlisberger makes none of it back.
It’s unknown whether Roethlisberger sought an incentive package based on team achievement, or whether (if he did) the Steelers told him no. (The incentive would have counted against the 2022 cap, if earned.) Whatever the negotiations, he willingly accepted $5 million less than he was due to make for one more ride with the Steelers, creating $15 million in 2021 cap space. (He’ll still count for $26.25 million against the cap.)
Roethlisberger painted himself into a corner when he said that he doesn’t care what he makes this year. (Pro tip: If you say you don’t care about your pay, the person who pays you will hold you to it.) Once he said it, it became clear that the Steelers eventually would try to get him to take less than $19 million.
He has made plenty of money, but $5 million is still (wait for it) $5 million. Regardless, Ben is back for one more season — and likely for only one more season. There’s a chance he and/or the team will regret it, that he and/or the team will wish they’d just removed the Big Ben Band-Aid now instead of later.