A look at the cap - common ground

You may feel there are players with questionable contracts, or at least contracts that do not represent the production of a player. There may be contracts that you feel can never be justified due to the age of the player or contract length. We fans like to muse about what changes, if any, we would make. The path inevitably leads us to a wall known as "the cap".

It would be a great topic for discussion, but only if we had some common ground for debate. The trees become tightly knit, indistinguishable from the forest. The best place to start would be looking at the forest. The best way to look at the forest is a scenario of attrition. What would happen if we did nothing? What would we be looking at?

The Steelers 2003 budget stands at an estimated 70,975,902 dollars. (55 signed players).
The Steelers 2004 budget stands at an estimated 77,182,846 dollars. (41 signed players).

The two budgets represent the current contracts, minus Barrett Brooks. These are nominal figures in an attempt to keep apples to apples. Attendance bonuses and incentives drive the cap up about another four million in fine print. (We should accept a 74mil plus figure for this year and an 81mil plus figure for next year.)

Players not under contract for 2004:

PlayerPosition2003 Salary
Rodney BaileyDE410,333
Kendrick Clancy NT 605,000
Matt Cushing TE/FB 475,000
Chris Doering WR 450,000
Clark Haggans OLB 605,000
Chis Hoke DE/NT 375,000
Chidi Iwuoma CB 375,000
Dan Kreider FB 605,000
Mike Logan FS 1,205,120
Mathias Nkwenti OT 487,333
Chukky Okobi OC 427,166
Jeff Reed K 305,000
Mike Schneck LS 575,000
Keydrick Vincent OG 375,000

Are we having fun yet?

Now, before you lose your minds and e-mail me gifs with threatening words and gestures, toss your Steelers gear at the dog, dispute the realistic odds of discarding 14 players, quote exclusive rights clauses, complicate the discussion with unknown incentive clauses and attendance bonus stuff, or even contemplate who or why we should cut, understand one thing.

This is a conservative representation of where the Steelers stand right now by virtue of existing legal binding contracts with their players. I think we have common ground in that we agree something of magnitude will have to be done, and it must involve significant player cuts.

How did we get here?

The Steelers attempted to enter this season with a group of 22 "core players" on the roster, making room for what they felt were necessary pieces of the puzzle. The end result is a list of 14 players without contracts that mainly comprise what would be our depth. I will always attribute a share of the blame for creating so many necessary pieces of the puzzle to the intricate schemes the team employs.

There are no longer the Wayne Gandy and Lee Flowers type of contracts cycling to allow attrition to right the books. These are a collective group of Oliver Ross gambles. They are knowledgeable in our system now but, except for a handful, they are still trapped in their cryogenic rookie stasis chambers as far as actual playing time. They may or may not be available after you cut the incumbents they were understudy to. Next year Larry Foote, Verron Haynes, Chris Hope, and Brett Keisel will be in the same list, all graduates of Steelers University looking for jobs.

One thing we should never do is take cheap shots at the front office for actually "going for it". You may not agree with the method they went about "going for it" but the Rooney's never left us in the cellar with 15 million in cap space sitting around. They didn't do us like Cincinnati did their fans.

"Even with all the planning you do, all the projections on players and where they will be a few years down the road, it's still a crap shoot." "No matter how smart you think you are, how well you plan it, handling the cap is still a little bit of a crapshoot." - Dan Rooney

Next: free agency

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