Thursday, August 02, 2007

Dead Money on Steelers' Cap Now Over $10 Million

Pittsburgh has always done a solid job of managing the salary cap, keeping the amount of "dead money" counting against its cap to a bare minimum. But after cutting Joey Porter, Duce Staley, and Chris Gardocki (among others) $10.335 million of the Steelers' 2007 salary cap is now taken up by players no longer on the team [per updated figures posted on August 1 by Steelers Live 'Xtra]. With this year's cap set at $109 million that's roughly 10.5 percent of the team's allowance, a higher percentage than in years past.

In case you aren't familiar with the mechanics of the salary cap, here's an oversimplified example of how a team is charged with dead money: Let's say a player signs a four-year contract with a $1 million signing bonus and base salaries of $500,000 each year. The cap charge for his first season would be $750,000 ($500,000 for his salary and $250,000 for one-quarter of his signing bonus). If that player is released after, say, only one season with the team, the remaining prorated portion of his signing bonus ($750,000) "accelerates" and counts against the cap the following year, even though the player is no longer on the roster. Meanwhile, the remaining $1.5 million that would have been paid in salary (over the next three seasons) "disappears." This arrangement explains why the Steelers are sqeamish about signing aging veterans like Alan Faneca to long-term contracts that include enormous signing bonuses.

Of course, a certain amount of dead money is inevitable. Draft choices—like Orien Harris, Charles Davis, Cedrick Humes and Omar Jacobs—sometimes don't pan out, and veteran players (like Jeff Hartings) often retire before completing their contracts. So the Steelers certainly aren't the only team above $10 million. According to, Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, New Orleans and Oakland are all over the $10 million mark—and there may be others. Yet, when it comes to this problem no one compares to the Houston Texans, currently saddled with more than $30 million in dead money, a serious competitive handicap.

As for players who remain on the Steelers' roster, LT Marvel Smith is scheduled to count $6.645 million against the Steelers' cap in 2007, the most of any player on the team. LG Alan Faneca, NT Casey Hampton, WR Hines Ward and DE Aaron Smith have cap charges of $6.12 million, $6 million, $5.92 million and $5.46 million, respectively.

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