Steelers Salary Cap Situation Not As Dire As The Numbers Say

The Steelers have been reported to be as low as $22 million over next years Salary Cap by ESPN’s John Clayton.  It has also gone as high as $30 million which was stated by Hines Ward in his conversation with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette in an article about him staying with the Steelers in 2012.  So we are looking between $22-$30 million over the 2012 NFL Salary Cap at this point right now.  It looks as if the Steelers were in dire straights and might have to dismantle this team.

That is not the case.  I started to dig and I found this tweet by Peter King.  It is from September but it shines some hope on the Steelers situation.  In the tweet King states that the ESPN TV Contract Extension will give the players an extra $13 million in Salary Cap money in 2014 and beyond.  That is just ESPN.  That does not count NBC, CBS, Fox and DirecTV.  There are still at least 4 more contracts that will be added to that $13 million in 2014.

So I went and looked around for the numbers of the rest of the TV Contracts with the NFL.  ESPN’s contract is expected to go from $1.1 Billion to $1.9 billion.  That is an $800 million difference with the new TV Contract.  That $800 million comes out to $13 million in Salary Cap Space in 2014 according to King.  That is $1.625 million in cap space per every $100 million in additional revenue.  Using that math here are the rest of the TV Contracts.

TV Contracts: Company-New Contract Additional Money- Cap Additional Money

  • ESPN- $800 Million- $13 Million
  • NBC- $300 Million- $4.875 Million
  • CBS- $377.5 Million- $6.134 Million
  • FOX- $387.5 Million- $6.296 Million
  • DirecTV has yet to be reported.  It was $700 Million in 2011.
  • TOTAL: $30.305 Million in New Cap Money

That is a $30.305 Million raise in salary cap in 2014.  That is not counting the additional DirecTV money that will also come in that year.  So the salary cap will go from around $125 million to at least $155 million in 2 seasons.  It will be around that number until at least the 2022 season when the new TV Contracts will kick in.  That is if no new money is found by then.  It most likely will be and it will go up some more.

With all of that extra money in 2014 the Steelers can do quite a few big things to bring their cap number way down.  Guys like LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons and Ben Roethlisberger are all signed  past the 2014 season.  They all could restructure their contracts down to $1 million in base salary for 2012 and make the rest of the base salary future guaranteed bonus money in later seasons.  If just those three guys were to make such a deal the Steelers could save over $34 million in cap money and already be below the 2012 Salary Cap.

That would give the Steelers the ability to not have to remove as much of the core group of players as is expected to happen.  There will still be some cuts to help with other salary cap issues.  Guys like Bryant McFadden and Chris Kemoeatu are making to much to sit on the bench.  The Steelers will still need to sign their restricted free agents and draft picks.  The amount for those signings will probably come to around $20 million next season.  Those do not happen right away though and the Steelers will have some wiggle room.

The Steelers also need to sign WR Mike Wallace to a long term deal this offseason if possible.  His deal could now be made possible by these future TV contracts.  If he were to sign a deal for a big bonus and low base salary in the first two seasons and have a large increase in 2014 a new contract is more then feasible.  We could get Wallace locked up and keep him a Steeler for a long time.  He takes the top off of a defense like no other and is a weapon the Steelers will not want to lose.

This will also help the Steelers and every other NFL team in Free Agency this year.  Every owner and Capologist for each team knows this extra money is coming.  They know even if they are close to the cap or are over the cap right now they can still sign almost anyone they want and it will be ok.  The amount of extra money coming in 2014 makes that ok just like in the deal the Steelers could do for Mike Wallace.  Push all the base salary back to 2014 and beyond.  That makes every team a player for any of the big name free agents on the market this year.

The Steelers are never major players in free agency.  They tend to not bring in any bigger name guys.  They build from within and keep a solid foundation of young talent.  Knowing though that they could make a move in free agency is enough to make the offseason that much more exciting anticipating what players the team could bring in.

The Steelers and other teams will be in this same situation next season.  They will be way over the cap but will be able to work around it waiting for 2014.



  • Beasleyrockah

    Ok, but your advocating guaranteeing substantial salary three years down the road to already veteran players.  This is EXTREMELY risky, and could very well backfire.  I’d rather they just make the necessary budget cuts now and ride it out than commit more guaranteed money long term.  Yes, the salary cap will jump in a few years, but all the teams will have this advantage.  By reallocating the money into later years, all the Steelers will be doing is guaranteeing limited cap flexibility for years to come.  It isn’t nearly as bad as people are making it seem, but it certainly isn’t as easy as you make it seem.  In order to get the three marquee players you named to take such a huge pay cut this year, you’ll have to make significant guarantees down the road.  The Jets did this with Santonio Holmes in an attempt to keep him while still going on a spending spree, and now they are stuck.  Of course he’s a head case, but what about injuries or just normal decline?  Guaranteeing long term money would be a short sited fix.  By the time 2014 gets here, the Steelers will still be right up against the cap while other teams get the uptick and still have the flexibility..and by that time the core will be very old.  The goal of this organization is to compete every year for a championship, not to mortage the future to make a one year run (a la the Jets).

  • beassleyrockah well stated. I am right in line with you there. I would rather cut the dead weight. This was a sort of if we have to do it type of thing. If it comes down to the bitter end and we are having trouble getting under this could do it right away. We have quite a few big contracts coming off the books in the next two years. We are also getting younger. Our cap situation is about to become very large in 2014. With the losses of Hampton, Farrior, Ward, by that time Keisel and Harrison will also be out the door the money we will have to spend will get way more then we normally have. So if we had to do this it would not affect us as much as it may seem. Of course we will have signed Wallace and Brown and a few others to bigger contracts like maybe pouncey and gilbert but most of our aging players will be gone and the money will be right where we need it. If you have any other thoughts send them across I like where your mind is on this.