Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and linebacker James Harrison are willing to restructure their contracts to help the Steelers get under the salary cap by March 13, the agents for both players told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
By my projection, the Steelers could trim between $6 million to $7 million off the salary cap by reworking the deals of Roethlisberger and Harrison. Those would be significant moves for the Steelers, who are about $11 million over the cap right now.
What does this all mean? Pittsburgh is reducing the players' cap numbers by turning base salaries into bonuses. For instance, Woodley's 2012 cap number was chopped from $11.5 million to $4.9 million -- a savings of $6.6 million -- because they converted most of this year's salary and a roster bonus into a $8.2 million up-front payment. That $8.2 million gets pro-rated over the five years remaining on his contract, so that's an additional $1.6 million added to his cap numbers in 2012 to 2016.
Essentially, the Steelers are reducing cap hits in 2012 by pushing them off into future years. The hope is that the NFL salary cap will increase each year, so these restructured contracts won't handcuff the team next season and beyond. Where restructuring can hurt a team is when it cuts a player who has multiple years left on his contract because all of the cap acceleration hits at once.