Found December 29, 2012 on
SteelBlitz Steelers Blog:
The Pittsburgh Steelers will have to make plenty of moves once again to work themselves into a better salary cap position. That means cuts, restructures, and letting players walk in free agency are all on the schedule for this off-season. In 2013 the salary cap is expected to only increase by a small amount to around $121 million (it was at $120 million for this season) which means there is little wiggle room with many player’s salaries increasing for next season.
As of now the Steelers will have 34 players currently under contract for the 2013 season. Those 34 players will account for around $127 million which is already around $6 million over the salary cap. Add in the tenders that will be offered to restricted free agents including Emmanuel Sanders and Jonathan Dwyer which should add up to around $7 million and the Steelers will find themselves at around $13 million over the salary cap.
They will have an extra $3 million as a carry over from not using that money in 2012 and the three veteran exemptions that are worth $250,000 a piece which will save them some money and leave them around $10 million over the cap. Add in restructures to Ben Roethlisberger, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons (which are all very likely to happen) and the team will find itself under the cap, but with little wiggle room to make any moves.
That is where the real decision making comes in. Players like Larry Foote and Casey Hampton will be free agents after the season and do not count in those cap numbers and resigning them would demand a veteran contract. Right now the Steelers may be better off going with the youngsters like Sean Spence and Steve McLendon who are already under contract to save money.
CB Keenan Lewis, WR Mike Wallace, S Will Allen, G Ramon Foster, QB Charlie Batch, QB Byron Leftwich and RB Rashard Mendenhall will all be unrestricted free agents following the 2012 season. It wouldn’t be surprising to see only Keenan Lewis and Ramon Foster be retained by the team as many of the others are either getting older or going to demand more money than the Steelers will have to spend.
To re-sing Lewis as well as make a play for any other free agents and to sign draft picks the Steelers may need to make some cuts as well. The most obvious options for that are the following: OLB James Harrison, G Willie Colon, DE Brett Keisel and CB Ike Taylor. Cutting Harrison, who will be 35 next season and is battling knee and back injuries, would save the team a little over $5 million for next season.
By cutting Colon the Steelers would save around $5 million next season, but also incur around a $4 million dead money charge in 2014 making it only around a $1 million savings. Therefore, keeping Colon may be more worthwhile as they only technically save $1 million and won’t be able to get a ample replacement for that amount.
Cutting Keisel would save the team nearly $3 million and would allow the Steelers to play their two first round picks in Cameron Heyward and Ziggy Hood. At some point they will have to give those guys a chance seeing as how they spent top picks on them in recent drafts.
Finally, cutting Ike Taylor would save around $2.5 million and if it’s a choice between Lewis and Taylor it may be smart for the Steelers to stick with the younger and more promising corner in Lewis than the nearly 33 year old Taylor.
The Steelers will also have a decent draft slot (especially if they fall to 7-9) which means a potential impact player heading to Pittsburgh. Not to mention the Steelers will get their first four picks of the 2012 Draft back for their second year and only tackle Mike Adams even played a significant role this season. David DeCastro, Sean Spence, and Alameda Ta’amu only saw the field for a combined three weeks (as of now).
This may also be a good time for the Steelers to look at the free agent market as they did when they signed James Farrior and Ryan Clark. Rey Maualuga of the Cincinnati Bengals has been pushed out of the lineup by rookie Vontaze Burfict. If he could be signed at a decent long-term price he would be the perfect player to pair with Lawrence Timmons in the middle of the defense. Also, safeties Louis Delmas and Patrick Chung could be great young replacements for Troy Polamalu or Ryan Clark depending again on the price they would demand on the open market.
One thing is for sure this weeks game against the Cleveland Browns may be the last time a lot of players are playing in Pittsburgh with a Steelers jersey on. The 2013 Steelers may be a lot different than the team that takes the field Sunday so make sure you watch and say goodbye to your favorite players just in case they aren’t back next year.
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