As we head into the final week of the 2012 season the Steelers currently have 34 players under contract for 2013 that will count $127,330,089.00 million against the cap, which is obviously roughly $6 million or so over the projected 2013 cap limit.
There is currently another $461,541 in dead money on the books for 2013 in addition to the above.
We can safely speculate that the 5 restricted free agents and the 2 exclusive rights free agents will all be tendered. The levels are of course open to debate, but for this early look we will go at the minimum projected levels for each which totals out at a projected $7.71 million.
This brings our projected total for 41 players and the dead money at a little over $135.5 million, or roughly $14 million over the cap.
So how will Omar Khan work his magic on this?
Let's start with LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons. Both will once again be restructured like they were this past offseason. Those projected restructures of their base salaries and the $2.5 million roster bonus due Timmons will easily clear roughly $11.5 million in cap space. I have wrote about this in the past and fully expect this to happen.
Ben Roethlisberger can be restructured once again without issue which should clear at most another $7 million in cap space. That figure is based on turning $10 million of his $11.6 million base into signing bonus. This is roughly what they did last season with him and there is no reason to think that it would not happen again.
With those three restructures done we have cleared roughly $18.5 million in cap space.
James Harrison is the big elephant in the room this offseason that needs his $10.035 million cap charge in 2013 addressed. Merely cutting Harrison will clear $5.105 million in cap space. There will not be a restructure I do not believe and I doubt they will go to him and ask him to take a pay cut. This is just the ugly side of the business.
Willie Colon is also somewhat of an elephant that will need to be addressed as well. Cutting him outright will save $1.2 million and it is something the Steelers really need to think about doing based on his injury history now. Had he stayed healthy this year he would have been safer.
Between those five moves we have cleared nearly $25 million in cap space which would have the Steelers roughly $11 million under the cap with only 14 roster spots left to fill against the cap, of which half will likely be draft picks.
Keep in mind that the Steelers will be able to roll over any unused cap space from this year, which figures to be around $3 million or so. I will have that number after the season is over. In addition, the Steelers will have (3) $250,000 veteran credits totaling $750,000 that can be used on veteran players as we get closer to the final roster cut down day.
If everything goes as I listed above the Steelers should be fine as far as cap space goes. Once again they will not be active in free agency outside of trying to sign a few of their own unrestricted players and one or two veteran bargains.
There might be a cap casualty or two of the players under contract below and the two obvious candidates would be Jerricho Cotchery and Brett Keisel. Those two, if released, would clear $3.835 million, but it might not have to come to that.