How crazy is this. Even though Ben Roethlisberger won't be a free agent until after the 2009
season, it's already time to start talking about his contract extension
. And considering this is the Steelers we're talking about, that negotiation will end up being one of the craziest in Pittsburgh history.
No one expects a new deal to be done before 2008, but it's going to be such a complicated contract with the escalators, option bonuses and other cap friendly devices that the two sides are already holding preliminary talks to start laying the groundwork
Despite the Steelers' reputation for stinginess, they've rarely let guys go who they really wanted to keep, and Roethlisberger would seem to rank No. 1 on the list of Steelers long-term contract priorities. But what will be interesting is seeing by how much Roethlisberger's deal blows away the Steelers' record for a signing bonus.
Pittsburgh has never given a player a $10-million+ signing bonus. As a family-owned team the Steelers at one point didn't have the cash to throw around that kind of money, now it seems to be more of a decision to avoid writing a check that large. As this Post-Gazette story points out Kordell Stewart still earned the second largest signing bonus in team history with a deal that was signed in 1998.
To put it in perspective, Tom Brady's new deal, signed before the most recent CBA, included a $14.5 million signing bonus
. Peyton Manning's new deal signed in 2004 included a $34.5 million signing bonus
. Of course Manning's deal also has given the Colts plenty of salary cap heartburn over the year. Hopefully Pittsburgh will convince Roethlisberger to follow Brady's lead and sign a massive, but not record-breaking contract to help ensure the team can surround him with quality players as well. But it is safe to say that Roethlisberger's next contract will leave any other Steelers contract, including Troy Polamalu's potential new deal, in the dust.