State of the Steelers: 2013 Salary Cap (part 1)
There has been much speculation about the Steelers salary cap situation for 2013 as well as the Mike Wallace contract and why the Steelers didn't make a stronger run at signing him to a long term deal when he reported to camp. Given that we are at the bye week, I figured now would be as good a time as any to break down where the cap situation stands, and take a look at if signing or franchising Mike Wallace is even an option. Recently, former Green Bay Packers V.P. Andrew Brandt tweeted that the Steelers may have mortgaged their future by pushing too much money into future years. They have pushed out $38 million in the past two seasons alone, and at some point will have to pay the piper. With the cap expected to stay relatively flat through 2015, tightening of the Steelers belts will likely have to start in a big way in 2013. Not only will they likely lose several key free agents, but they also will have to cut and/or restructure some veterans in order to get cap compliant. I don't claim to be an expert in all of the inner workings of the salary cap, but here is where the Steelers stand capwise for 2013 to the best of my knowledge. First, let's take a look at which players from the current 53 man roster are under contract for next season, as well as their salaries and expected cap hits:
2013 PLAYERS UNDER CONTRACT:
The first thing that pops out at you is the fact that 6 players account for 61% of the cap. Also, with only 35 players under contract they are already roughly $7 million over the expected 2013 cap of $121 million. Now let's assume they offer tenders to all of their Restricted Free Agents (RFAs):
|Demarcus Van Dyke||1,300,000||1,300,000||RFA|
I made assumptions that they offer the low tender to 5 players, and a 2nd round tender to Emmanuel Sanders since they will possibly be losing Mike Wallace to free agency. I took last year's tender levels and slightly increased them to estimate the 2013 cap hit for each. I am assuming the low level tender goes up from $1.27 million to $1.3 million and the 2nd round tender goes from $1.9 to $2.0 million. This is just an educated guess on my part which I think should be fairly accurate. RFA tagging these 6 players gets the roster up to 41 men, and the cap figure up to $137 million. This is roughly $16 million over the cap. If they were to fill out their roster with draft picks, UDFAs, and elevated practice squad players, they'd need to free up roughly another $8 million which puts them effectively $24 million over the cap. This is before even looking at signing any of their own free agents.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
|Mike Wallace||2,700,000||0||2,700,000||(est. Franchise Tag is $10 million)|
Above is a quick look at which players are Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA's) and their 2012 salaries. As you can see from the list of UFAs, the Steelers have no back-up QB under contract, no 3rd OT on the roster, and no long snapper. They are potentially losing a starting RB, a Pro Bowl WR, a starting ILB, and a starting CB. In addition, their top two back-ups on the O-line (Foster & Legursky) are no longer under contract.
|James Harrison||frees $5.1 million|
|Willie Colon||frees $1.2 million|
|Brett Keisel||frees $2.825 million|
|Ike Taylor||frees $2.5 million|
|Troy Polamalu||frees $4.6 million|
|Lawrence Timmons||Adds $2.48 million to 2013 cap|
I have been asked a few times how much money would be saved from the cap if a certain player was cut. Cutting a player escalates the cap hit of their future bonuses, so cutting most of these players doesn't save much. It would actually cost more to cut Lawrence Timmons than to keep him at this point for example. (Sorry FC)
As the Steelers sit, they are roughly $24 million over the projected cap for 2013. Cutting a few players won't put a very big dent in that number. This means Roethlisberger, Timmons, and Woodley assuredly have to be restructured at the very least. Other players like Polamalu, Taylor, and Clark may have to re-work their deals as well. Slapping the $10 million Franchise Tag on Mike Wallace when you are already $24 million over the cap isn't likely going to be an option. They will either need to work out a long term deal with Wallace before free agency that pushes out most of his cap hit for later years, or let him walk. If he does choose to walk, they can focus their attention towards retaining guys like Medenhall and Keenan Lewis
Later in the week I will post Part 2 of this article where I detail how I think the Steelers can get cap compliant and possibly retain one of their big name free agents.