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.