“March Massacre” (thank you 93.7 The Fan) appears to have ended, more than likely at least. The major roster moves that most fans expected to happen have indeed come to pass. The pen, aka ax, wielded by the front office these last few days has done its job and the suddenly the Steelers are a lean, mean, off season machine both in personnel and their checkbook.
About a week ago the Steelers were sitting at $8 million over the projected $120 million dollar cap. When the offseason started they were anywhere from $20-$30 million over, so we’ll say a happy medium of $25 million. What’s a paltry $5 mill between friends right? So now after all the restructures and player cuts they are in a much more comfortable position under according to capologist Ian Whetstone: @jimwexell: According to SCI capologist Ian Whetstone, Steelers about $10-11M under cap: Can afford draft picks, RFA tenders, insurance vs. offer to MW.
Charlie Casserly, former NFL GM and current analyst for the NFL Today talked with 93.7 The Fan this morning about the Steelers cap situation. He referenced how Steelers GM Kevin Colbert and the rest of the front office was ready to handle the finances for 2012. They knew what they were getting into right from the start and had a plan of action to deal with it. Restructuring contracts is not a difficult deal from a player standpoint; they don’t lose any money but rather just get most of it upfront rather than spread out during the year. That allows teams to push that money off as a signing bonus onto future years of the players deal. Omar Khan of the Steelers knows how to manipulate the cap as well as if not better than anyone in the league so we as fans can trust his judgment when it comes to these types of situations. The front office will never handicap the team for the future just to fix the present. It may seem that way with all this money being pushed off to future years but they’ve been doing business this way for so long, they’ve become experts at it. The Steelers are always competitive, they always field a team full of talent. Don’t forget with the new TV contract money coming into play after 2013, there will be even more money to spend for everyone and the cap will go up considerably.
None of us will be surprised if more restructures are on the way, although it appears they won’t necessarily be needed. Casey Hampton would be a prime example of a restructure as would Troy Polamalu. Hampton’s cap hit at just over $8 million and Polamalu at just over $6 million presently. The team could take their base salary and turn that into a signing bonus and spread it out if they want too. They certainly figure to use some of this newly freed up cash to spend on getting Mike Wallace tendered the $2.7 million first round amount. They don’t have to do that until March 13th though so don’t discount them actually coming to terms on a 5 yr. deal (or something similar) before that.
Pittsburgh never has a bevy of cash available to start the year; they’ll keep a few million in reserve should they need to sign someone during the season but you won’t see them have a surplus of $20 million or anything like that.
Player cuts are harder not from a financial standpoint; it’s pretty cut and dry with the money you save. Releasing guys that have been there through for the last 10+ years is not something you take lightly though. The Steelers respect their history and the players that got them there so they won’t get wishy washy when it comes to their future. As long as that player is capable of performing at an acceptable level they’ll remain on the roster and be given new deals. Heck you could say the team will bend over backwards to keep quality veterans on the squad. In the case of Aaron Smith and James Farrior though, it wasn’t a matter of the money so much (although that was part of it for sure) but more of just father time taking no prisoners. Smith only played in 15 games the last 3 years combined and Farrior split time with Larry Foote on the inside as the Steelers struggled against teams that use the short passing game.
There is plenty to discuss about all these changes and how they will pan out on the field next season, especially when it comes to leadership on and off the field but from financial standpoint the Steelers have taken care of business once again just like they always do.
You can listen to Casserly’s interview right here, enjoy!