Steelers’ safety Troy Polamalu has decided to retire from the NFL after 12 seasons, 8 of which saw him play in the Pro Bowl. The retirement has been rumored for some time due to Polamalu’s declining play and large salary. Often such players are presented with scenarios where they can accept massive pay reductions or be asked to move on. It clearly would have been hard to imagine Polamalu in another uniform and Steelers fans likely would much rather see this than Polamalu struggle while ending his career in another uniform similar to Ed Reed’s brief stints with the Texans and Jets a few years ago.
Last year many people, myself included, thought Polamalu would have been a salary cap casualty. Instead the Steelers gave him a two year contract extension that was really just a salary cap manuever designed to give Polamalu one more opportunity to return to the playoffs and finish out his career on a high note. His cash payout last season of $8.25 million, of which $6.75 million came in the form of a signing bonus, was identical to the original payment due to Polamalu under the terms of his original contract. He was set to count for $8.25 million against the salary cap this year and it seemed doubtful the team would have him play at that figure, realizing that last season was the final year they could cave in on a contract for their star.
What happens next will determine when the Steelers and Polamalu decice to process the paperwork for retirement. If it occurs before June 1, the Steelers will gain $3.75 million in cap space and have Polamalu count for $4.5 million in dead money. If they wait until after June 1 then they will gain $6 million in 2015 and take a $2.25 million dead money charge in each of the next two seasons.