Read part 1 here.
The Steelers are likely approximately $3 million under the 2012 salary cap after factoring in Starks’ speculated veteran minimum contract. The team also has the opportunity to exercise 3 $500,000 veteran salary cap credits, which, in essence, would shift $1.5 million against the 2012 salary cap to 2013. That would theoretically place the team somewhere around $4.5 million under the salary cap.
Add in the fact that Mike Wallace’s $2.7 million 1st round tender that he has not signed is already factored into the salary cap total, and that leaves the team with over $7 million against the salary cap to donate to signing Wallace. If you then consider the hypothetical release of Jonathan Scott, which seems likely with the return of Max Starks regardless of the Wallace decision, and it now approaches somewhere around the $9.5 million figure.
It is important to note that what a player counts against a salary cap is not necessarily what a player is paid. For example, contract restructures often convert a player’s base salary into a signing bonus, which the player receives immediately in one lump sum; however, in terms of how it affects the salary cap that money is then split into fractions over the life of the contract, up to 5 seasons. For example, a converted signing bonus of $10 million would result in a 2012 salary cap hit of $2 million.
With that in mind, it should be unsurprising how wildly the cap charges of similar deals may vary, depending on how they are structured. WR Vincent Jackson signed a 5 year, $55 million deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason that results in a 2012 cap charge of $13. On the other hand, the Philadelphia Eagles re-signed WR DeSean Jackson to a 5 year, $51 million deal that results in a 2012 cap charge a fraction of the other contract.
Each contract is tailored to individual team needs. The Buccaneers had a wealth of expendable cap space for 2012, so it makes sense for them to absorb as much of the long-term cap damage as quickly as possible. On the other hand, the Eagles reduced DeSean Jackson’s salary cap hit for this season, which previously exceeded $9 under the franchise tag, in order to make other moves, such as signing running back LeSean McCoy to a long-term deal.
Money is not the obstacle, per se, in getting a deal done with the 4th year wide receiver, as recent long-term deals with marquee players such as LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, and Troy Polamalu – and myriad contract restructures that saw the doling out of tens of millions of dollars on the spot – attest.
The group of owners that have partnered with the iconic Rooney family over the past few years include, among others, Thomas Tull, president and CEO of Legendary Pictures. As an executive producer, he used his influence to add a distinct Pittsburgh flare to the new Batman movie set to be released, including several cameos by players and a scene filmed in Heinz Field.
In other words, the Pittsburgh Steelers can afford to pay Mike Wallace a contract somewhere in between what Vincent Jackson and DeSean Jackson received. Max Starks even did the organization a favor by giving them the potential to have an additional $2 million to play with. If necessary, they can muster up a double digit salary cap number. They can also easily structure a $10-12 million per year contract to have manageable early-year cap charges. It is simply a matter of both the player and the organization reaching a mutually agreeable number, and there is belief that they number will be reached.