Steelers restructure two contracts to gain salary cap space
February 25, 2015 4:54 PM
Marcus Gilbert's contract is one of two the Steelers restructured.
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Although the NFL salary cap for each team is expected to rise by $10 million to $143 million this year, that apparently is not enough for the Steelers, who made a few moves Wednesday that might allow them to go after some free agents.
They restructured the contracts of offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert and safety Mike Mitchell to create nearly $6.2 million in salary cap room for 2015, sources close to the situation said.
The move does not cost Gilbert or Mitchell any money, it merely moves it around in different forms for 2015. The Steelers took their salaries and roster bonuses and turned them into signing bonuses, which pushes part of the cap hit into future years. Mitchell had a $2 million roster bonus due and Gilbert a $3.5 million roster bonus.
Teams do this frequently to free cap room for the current year, and it has become a particularly popular move for the Steelers.
The moves were not made so the Steelers could afford extra cap room to extend the contract of Ben Roethlisberger, which the two sides have been negotiating for a few weeks. When they sign their quarterback to an extension, it will save them salary cap room in 2015 as they turn some of his $11.6 million salary due this year into a signing bonus that will be pro-rated for cap purposes.
The extra cap space might help them re-sign linebackers Jason Worilds and Arthur Moats, cornerback Brice McCain and their other impending free agents and look league-wide at others who will become unrestricted free agents March 10.
In the meantime, the Steelers are in good shape as far as the 89 percent cash of the salary cap they are required to spend over the course of four seasons, 2013 through 2016. With two seasons down and two to go, the Steelers are right around where they should be in the minimum requirement.
Under the most recent collective bargaining agreement passed in 2011, each NFL team must pay out in cash 89 percent of the total of all four cap years during that period. If any team falls below that figure at the end of 2016, the amount they were short must be made up in distributions to players who were on their roster during those four seasons. There are no other penalties.
Cash is different than salary cap in that it is the amount of money the team pays out each year. For example, a five-year signing bonus of $25 million given a player this year counts $5 million annually over five years for salary cap purposes. However, in the cash accounting, all $25 million would be counted this year.
In figures provided by the NFL Players Association, the Steelers have paid out 88.28 percent of the salary cap combined in the first two years.
In 2013, they spent $104,413,817 in cash and $121,574,781 in cash last year. With the cap expected to rise from $133 million to $143 million this year, the Steelers would have to spend about $132 million in cash in 2015 in order to meet the average of 89 percent over the first three years.
Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @ EdBouchette.
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