Friday, November 09, 2007

The ramifications of extending Big Ben's contract

Our last post ("Steelers' plans for extending Roethlisberger's contract") generated a lot of reader comments here at The Steelyard. While everyone seemed to agree that the Steelers should extend Big Ben's deal, no one could seem to agree "when" would be the right time. So maybe it's time to go over some of the ramifications of keeping Roethlisberger in the fold long-term.

This season Roethlisberger's base salary is just a shade over one million dollars and his salary cap charge is $2.276 million. In 2008 he is scheduled to earn $1.357 million (cap charge $2.627 million), and in 2009 $1.707 million (cap charge $2.977 million). (These scheduled cap charges are lower than they will be in actual fact, but only an insider would know what contract bonuses Ben is earning; those have to be added after-the-fact). Regardless, the point is that right now Roethlisberger is a bargain relative to his performance. As soon as he signs an extension he is going to be very expensive, and that will have ramifications in terms of the Steelers' ability to sign and retain other players.

So contrary to what some fans seem to believe, extending Roethlisberger's contract is NOT going to free up money or cap space. In fact, the impending change in Ben's contract status has already been affecting the Steelers' player-personnel moves for some time now. Going forward the Steelers will not be able to re-sign certain veterans (Alan Faneca being the first "victim" of this) or bid for certain free agents because Roethlisberger will be taking up a much larger percentage of the team's cap. In the future, some veterans will also lose their jobs to unproven (i.e., less expensive) rookies for the very same reason.

So will the Steelers end up re-signing Roethlisberger two years early? Yes, probably. It's good for Ben because he would receive more money (and more guaranteed money) sooner rather than later. And it's good for the organization because it would establish long-term certainty in regards to the all-important starting QB position. But since one never knows what will happen on the injury/health front it has the drawback of committing a lot of money and cap space prematurely. And we all know that Roethlisberger is not exactly the second coming of Peyton Manning in terms of health and durability.

One need look no further than the AFC North to illustrate the risks of re-doing a contract early: Recall that the Bengals re-worked Carson Palmer's deal just three-and-half seasons into his six-year rookie contract. A few months later Palmer tore knee ligaments in that memorable playoff game against the Steelers. In hindsight, I'm sure Cincinnati wishes it had negotiated a new deal after he suffered the injury.

Prediction: Most likely not much will happen in terms of serious negotiations until next summer. If I had to guess I'd say Pittsburgh will aim to re-sign Roethlisberger in late August or early September 2008, as the organization will want to make sure he survives next year's training camp and exhibition season without a major injury before committing megabucks to him. At the same time, it wouldn't totally shock me if they decided to wait until after the 2008 season.

As to size of the contract, I won't even try to speculate. But one can be sure it will be, by far, the largest contract in Steelers' history and shatter the team record for largest signing bonus. As always, comments are appreciated.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I SEE YOUR POINT IN REGARDS TO WAITING TO SEE WHETHER BEN STAY INJURY FREE, BUT TO ME WITH THE PALMER EXAMPLE YOU PUT OUT, IT JUST WOULDN'T HAVE MADE SENSE, BECAUSE OF HIS PRIOR PERFORMANCE. IF YOU SIGN A PERSON BASED ON THE "IF" FACT, IF YOU GET INJURED, IF YOU FORSOME UNFORSEEABLE FUTURE END UP IN JAIL, THEN YOU SHOULD SIGN ON THE " WHAT IF" SCNARIO. WHAT IF I TAKE THIS TEAM TO THE AFC TITLE GAME MY ROOKIE YEAR, WHAT IF I NOT ONLY LEAD US TO THE SUPERBOWL, BUT "WIN" IT TOO,,, SEE WHAT I AM SAYING!

7:26 AM  
Anonymous Jay said...

I agree 100% with your article; i think Roethlisburger is a good QB in the making of becoming a great QB. However, if the Steelers are to remain competitive as they have for so many years, they will not be able to resign him to the same type of contract most of these QB are currently being given. Example, Peyton Manning. What's the use of having a Franchise QB if you can't afford to surround him with the necessary pieces to win?

11:41 AM  
Anonymous steelerfan said...

no matter what happens the steelers will sign big ben ,he is becoming the best thing to happen to the steelers for a long time the guy is amazingly good..and he gets better every year...he will be a future hall of famer and is already a steeler icon!!!o ya and pro bowler this year too...go steeeelers!!!!!

7:33 PM  

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