Wednesday, March 05, 2008

February 2009 Could Get Ugly

An article in Wednesday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette contained a couple of nuggets which correct points made here, and elsewhere.

First off, the 8-year deal signed by Mr. Roethlisberger is not an extension but a brand new contract (i.e. the final two years of his old deal were voided), meaning that he is signed with the Steelers through the 2015 season.

Secondly, instead of reducing his number against the salary cap the new contract actually increases his number for the 2008 season. Furthermore, as Ed Bouchette points out in the article, "[Mr. Roethlisberger's] salary leaps to $8.05 million in 2010. He will earn $11.6 million annually through the 2014 season. He will earn $12.1 million in the eighth and final year of the new contract, 2015." Which got us to wondering just what that might mean for future seasons (putting aside, temporarily, the collective bargaining battle that lies ahead for the league and the player's association) -- specifically next off-season.

So we went to the good folks at KFFL to find out just how many free agents the Steelers might have next February. While most of the names are not those of Pro Bowlers there are enough here, combined with the big dollars being paid to Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu (the two of them will account for more than $12,000,000 of the Steelers' $116,000,000 payroll), to make us wonder just what's going to happen. Here's a look at former Steelers, the 2009 edition:

Charlie BatchQBUFA
Najeh DavenportRBUFA
Carey DavisRBRFA
Willie ReidWRRFA
Cedrick WilsonWRUFA
Jon DekkerTERFA
Willie ColonOLRFA
Jerremy ParquetOLRFA
Marvel SmithOLUFA
Jason CapizziOLRFA
Ryan McBeanDLRFA
James FarriorLBUFA
Bryant McFaddenCBUFA
Anthony MadisonSRFA
Anthony SmithSRFA

A list of 15 potential free agents is a daunting thing, and considering that of those at least nine started games in 2007 we begin to get an idea of just how tough things could get.

As Steelers fans it is our nature to see the glass as at least half empty, so it's important to remember that the salary cap will increase next off-season -- our guess is that an additional 6.5% of spending will be permitted -- but how many of the players on the list will $7,540,000 bring back?

I have to admit to being a big fan of James Farrior, but he will be 34-years old next January. As a result of all the factors at work it seems certain that 2008 will be his final season in Pittsburgh. Additionally Cedrick Wilson, who has been something of a disappointment, will turn 30 in December -- bye, bye Ced. Najeh? Charlie? It definitely doesn't look good for them, at least right now. And Marvel Smith has probably already got his boxes ready for packing.

On the other hand the restricted free agents -- especially Messrs. Colon, Davis, Madison, Reid, and Smith -- all can be expected back (i.e. barring an insane contract offer from another team) in Pittsburgh.

Ahhh, but all of that can be put aside for now -- what with the draft . . . and training camp . . . and an entire season to be played before any of this comes to the fore. But, like you, we're not happy unless there's something to worry about.

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