With spring less than a month away, it's the time of year when the thoughts of Steelers executives turn to restructuring contracts.
The Steelers are working with agents to restructure some of their veteran players' contracts as they move to get under the NFL's salary cap as required by March 12.
Among the contracts they will restructure are those of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Timmons' deal was completed Tuesday and Roethlisberger's should be done before the end of this week. They might want to know if they will have enough money available to try to sign free-agent receiver Steve Breaston, who plans to visit their South Side facility Thursday or Friday. They also met with Bill Parise, agent for James Harrison, at the NFL Scouting Combine to discuss the outside linebacker's contract situation.
None of those whose contracts are restructured will lose money. The new deals do not add years to the players' contracts, either; they merely are reworked for bookkeeping purposes to create salary-cap room. The Steelers have done this for a number of years and, while it does free cap room for 2013, it robs cap room from future years. It's part of the reason why they face this annual scramble to get under the NFL's salary cap, which is expected to be around $122 million per team this year.
In a typical restructuring, the Steelers turn much of a player's 2013 salary into a bonus, which is pro-rated over the life of the contract for salary-cap purposes.
Roethlisberger is signed for the next three seasons. His salary for 2013 is $11.6 million. They could turn $9 million of that salary into a bonus, spreading the cap hit at $3 million per year. That would create $6 million in salary-cap room while Roethlisberger still receives $11.6 million this year.
Timmons, who has four years left on his contract, is due a salary of $5.375 million this year. They could put $4 million of that into a bonus and save another $3 million in cap room.
Harrison's case might be different. He is due $6.57 million this year and $7.57 million in 2014. Conceivably, they could turn most of his 2013 salary into a bonus and save some room. They also could ask him, at age 35, to take a pay cut, something they have done on occasion in the past, most recently with nose tackle Casey Hampton in 2012. Parise said neither option was discussed in Indianapolis, but they plan to meet again.
Another candidate for a restructured contract is outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, although the Steelers have not approached him. He has four years left on his contract with a $9 million salary scheduled for 2013. They could create approximately $6 million in cap space with him.
Besides restructuring players' contracts, the Steelers also might release a veteran or two.
They expect to lose many of their 17 unrestricted free agents, including wide receiver Mike Wallace, when they are permitted to sign with other teams at 4 p.m. March 12. Among others who will be free agents are cornerback Keenan Lewis, offensive tackle Max Starks, running back Rashard Mendenhall and offensive lineman Ramon Foster. Linebacker Larry Foote, also set to become a UFA, has said the Steelers were talking to his agent.
First Published February 27, 2013 5:00 AM