Ben Roethlisberger had a $41.25 million salary cap hit for 2021, which was a clear albatross for the team and a number that could never happen. After weeks of debate about what would happen between the two sides they simply agreed on a new deal that saw the Steelers move a bit out of their usual comfort level and Roethlisberger take a $5 million pay cut to reduce his cap number by more than $15 million.
Per multiple reports Roethlisberger agreed to reduce his salary from $19 million to $14 million with all but $1.075 million coming in the form of a signing bonus. In order to reduce the cap charges the Steelers added four voidable contract years which will leave the team with a $10.34 million dead money charge in 2022 if Roethlisberger retires. This is not a typical type of contract for the Steelers at all, but it allows them to save $15.34 million on the cap in 2021 instead of just $5 million.
As for the pay cut it reminds me of the Peyton Manning pay cut in 2015 when the Broncos asked him to slice his pay from $19 million to $15 million. Manning had the ability to earn the salary back in incentives (which he did) and I dont know if that is the same here or not. Pittsburgh is usually anti incentives in contracts as well. I would guess there is a no tag clause if Roethlisberger is to continue playing.
All of the posturing for a $5 million pay cut for a legendary QB in Pittsburgh seems a bit pointless, in my opinion. In the grand scheme of things is $5 million going to be the difference between re-signing Bud Dupree and extending TJ Watt and not being able to do it? The only difference in salary cap savings is $1 million so there is no material difference in the cap situation between a $19 and $14 million salary. I guess every little bit helps.
If Ben completely falls apart physically this year I would expect the team to approach him about reworking his contract for 2022 so they can designate him a post June 1 and spread out that $10.34 million cap hit, similar to what the Steelers did with Drew Brees this year.
The Steelers who started the offseason around $25 million over the salary cap are now projected to be around $3.6 million under the cap floor for 2021. The team has a number of free agents and work to do with their cap but this was the big one to get done first.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.