With the NFLPA's ratification of a new CBA on Sunday, the NFL has informed its teams the salary cap for the 2020 season will be $198.2 million.
That's slightly lower than initial estimates of $200 million. And many also expected it to go up even more than that after the new CBA was approved, thanks to the addition of two more playoff games as part of the seven-team postseason field that will come with this deal in 2020.
That puts the Steelers at slightly over the cap with the new league year set to begin at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
But it's not as dire as it seems.
Though the team has the least amount of cap space in the league, it can easily get under the cap and even create enough space to take care of the things it wishes to achieve, such as placing the franchise tag on linebacker Bud Dupree and offering tenders to its restricted free agents.
Here are the steps needed to be taken:
It's long been assumed that linebacker Mark Barron ($5.25 million), linebacker Anthony Chickillo ($5 million) and guard Ramon Foster ($4 million) will be released to create $14.25 million in salary cap savings.
All or some of those cuts will happen this week, perhaps as soon as today.
Other players who could be released include tight end Vance McDonald ($5.62 million in savings) -- though the team would prefer to keep him -- punter Jordan Berry ($1.8 million) and nose tackle Daniel McCullers ($1.5 million).
The problem is that McDonald and Berry would need to be replaced by starter-quality players, so the savings would be negligible.
It just depends on how much savings the Steelers need immediately.
Simple restructures by the Steelers can create additional cap space.
Those deals include taking a player's base salary and reducing it to, say, $1 million. The player is then given the rest of his base salary from that season as additional signing bonus, spreading the hit over the remainder of his deal.
It's a win-win. The team creates cap space. The player gets his money immediately, as opposed to waiting to receive it in installments during the season.
The key is making such a move with players who are in the team's long-term plans.
Doing so with guard David DeCastro, cornerback Steven Nelson and defensive end Stephon Tuitt would create $13 million in cap space.
This is where it gets a little more interesting. The Steelers would like to extend the contract of defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, who is heading into the final season of his current deal.
But it's unlikely a deal can be worked out quickly. It could be something that happens after the draft to give the team some financial flexibility heading into training camp.
Heyward is currently slated to earn a base salary of $9.5 million in 2020. But any new deal would lower that base salary to $1 million or so while giving him a big signing bonus to make up the difference.
Such a deal could save as much as $3 to $4 million against the cap -- depending on the size and terms of the contract -- while taking care of Heyward in the long term.
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