The Steelers are ready to kick the tin can down the road a little bit farther.
According to the NFL Network, the Steelers, needing to clear roughly $15 million in salary cap space, have restructured the contract of linebacker Lawrence Timmons and opened negotiations with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for a similar move in hope of lowering their cap hit for 2013.
Timmons was scheduled to count $11.16 million against the cap. He also had a $2.5 million roster bonus due next month. The Steelers turned some of that base salary and roster bonus into signing bonus at a cap savings of $5 million.
A similar restructuring of Roethlisberger’s 2013 cap value of $19.6 million – the fourth-highest in the league behind Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, New York’s Eli Manning and Denver’s Peyton Manning – could save the Steelers as much as $7.1 million by turning $10 million of his base salary into signing bonus.
The result would be giving Roethlisberger a $10 million check now as opposed to spreading that amount out over the course of the season, while increasing his cap number in future years.
The Steelers need to be under the league’s salary cap, which is estimated to be around $123 million, by March 12. But Pittsburgh also will need enough cap space to tender offers to its restricted free agents.
Making things difficult is the fact that about $100 million of the Steelers’ cap space is taken up by 10 players: Roethlisberger, Timmons, linebackers LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison, safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark, cornerback Ike Taylor, tight end Heath Miller, guard Willie Colon and wide receiver Antonio Brown.
The Steelers would like Harrison to take a cut in pay to lower his $10.035-million cap hit, but after leading the team in sacks last season – tying Timmons with six – the 35-year-old linebacker might balk at such a move. Cutting him outright would save $5.1 million in cap space, though the Steelers prefer to keep him.
The other candidate for a base salary adjustment is Colon, who counts $7.65 against the cap. Colon finished each of the last three seasons on injured reserve and the Steelers might be able to get him to take a cut in base salary as opposed to releasing him or restructuring his contract.
Releasing Colon outright would save just $1.2 million in cap space, while a simple restructure would save $3.19 million.