Another three-time Super Bowl veteran took a deep breath and accepted a steep cut in pay to stay one more year with the Steelers.
Ike Taylor will enter his 12th and perhaps final NFL season by agreeing Monday to a $4.25 million cut in his salary for 2014. Scheduled to earn $7 million in the final year of his contract, Taylor accepted a cut to $2.75 million. No years were added to his contract, which expires in one year.
The move leaves the Steelers about $7 million below their salary cap as free agency and the NFL's new calendar year begin today at 4 p.m. All teams are required to be in cap compliance by then.
Taylor accepted his pay cut hours after the Steelers decided to release linebacker LaMarr Woodley and his $8 million salary. He will be officially let go today and designated as a June 2 release. He will be free to sign with another team immediately but his $8 million cap savings will not take place until June 2.
Taylor cryptically announced his new deal via Twitter, writing:
"The INK is about to dry on this paper ... im a LIFER ... #6BURGHfoalldemhatas ... will retire as a ROONEY and a LEBEAU ..."
Getting Taylor to agree to a steep pay cut always was in the Steelers' plans. Now that he has done so, it takes the pressure off them to try to find another cornerback in free agency, although they are expected to address that need in the May 8-10 draft.
Although they reportedly were talking to at least two young cornerbacks scheduled to become unrestricted free agents today -- Alterraun Verner of the Tennessee Titans and Nolan Carroll of the Miami Dolphins -- they have little interest in either.
But with the savings from Taylor added to others over the past week, they can now at least entertain signing some free agents, either their own or from other teams. The Steelers also have needs in their defensive line (where three of their top four ends will become free agents today), linebacker, safety and wide receiver.
Another aim is to work out a long-term contract with outside linebacker Jason Worilds, who now counts $9,754,000 on their cap after he accepted their one-year transition tag last week for that amount in guaranteed salary. There has been little movement, however, on that front.
While their cap savings from the Woodley deal will not appear until June 2, they will need some of that to sign their draft picks, to use when their salary cap includes their entire roster (plus injured reserve and practice squad) and not just the top 51 contracts now, and to have money in reserve during the season. They also might use some of it to extend contracts for their own players -- such as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and center Maurkice Pouncey, or sign some free-agent stragglers they might still like, although few of quality remain on the market until June.
Of their own players who are scheduled to become free agents today, the Steelers have interest in signing wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, defensive ends Al Woods and/or Ziggy Hood, backup offensive linemen Fernando Velasco or Cody Wallace, and perhaps backup halfbacks LaRod Stephens-Howling or Jonathan Dwyer.
Defensive end Brett Keisel will not get an offer from them anytime soon, and many circumstances would have to fall into place for him to return after the draft.
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is someone they would like to keep, but he is expected to be a coveted free agent on the open market, and his price will be too high for the Steelers to re-sign him. They did not make him an offer before he became a restricted free agent last year, but they matched the one-year, $2.5 million salary New England agreed to pay him when the Patriots signed him to a tender.
Over the past week, the Steelers have locked up Worilds and re-signed safety Will Allen, extended the contracts of Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller that created cap room, restructured the contract of Antonio Brown to save more cap room, and released Larry Foote, Curtis Brown, Levi Brown and, now, Woodley.