Restructuring helps Steelers' cap room
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By Len Pasquarelli
The Pittsburgh Steelers have gained some much-needed salary-cap space entering the draft this weekend by completing a simple restructuring of cornerback Ike Taylor's contract.
The Steelers' best cornerback, Taylor reduced his scheduled base salary of $3.5 million for 2009 to a level at or near the league minimum for his tenure, which is $620,000. The balance was converted into a guaranteed signing bonus.
The move, first reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and confirmed Thursday by agent Joel Segal, is similar to the restructuring the team did with Taylor's contract last year, when he was scheduled to earn $4.1 million in base salary. In both seasons, the Steelers sorely required cap space.
Earlier this week, team officials confirmed that Gary Russell, a veteran third-down and short-yardage tailback, was released to create cap room that allowed Pittsburgh to sign backup quarterback Charlie Batch. It is believed the Steelers are among the teams with the least available cap space -- less than $2 million.
The Steelers are likely to approach other veteran players in the coming weeks about consummating contract restructurings similar to Taylor's.
A six-year veteran, Taylor signed a five-year, $23.75 million extension in 2006. That deal has two more seasons to run; the base salaries in those seasons were unaffected by the restructuring.
Taylor was a fourth-round pick in the '03 draft. He became a full-time starter in '05, and, despite his questionable hands, is regarded as the best cover cornerback on the NFL's premier defensive unit. In 93 games, including 60 starts, Taylor has 353 tackles, one sack, eight interceptions and 75 passes defensed. He typically drops a lot of potential interceptions and has never posted more than three picks in a season.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.