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How Can Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger Reduce His Salary Cap Hit?

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It seems that both Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers would like to have Roethlisberger return to be the team’s quarterback for the 2021 season, after public statements from Roethlisberger’s agent Ryan Tollner and Steelers president Art Rooney II in the last 24 hours.

But both Tollner and Rooney emphasized the need for a parties to come to an agreement regarding Roethlisberger’s contract for the 2021 season.

The star quarterback is set to count for $41 million against the 2021 salary cap, a figure that the Steelers have said must be reduced in order for Roethlisberger to return. Roethlisberger has said that his salary for 2021 is not an issue to him.

But there are several different ways Roethlisberger’s 2021 salary can be reduced, and the remaining negotiations between the team and Roethlisberger’s representation will be based around that structure.

There are three basic ways that the team can reduce Roethlisberger’s salary cap for 2021: a traditional extension, an extension with voidable years and Roethlisberger taking a pay cut.

Here’s what Roethlisberger’s contact looks like right now:

In a traditional extension, Roethlisberger would convert most of his $19 million roster bonus and salary scheduled for 2021 into a signing bonus, with the impact divided over the number of years of the contract. These negotiations would also include future salary figures for Roethlisberger if he were to play in the 2022 season or beyond.

Without knowing how those negotiations would go, it’s hard to project what such a contract would look like in the future, but we can know what it would do to the 2021 salary cap:

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The sides could also agree on a voidable extension that would add years to Roethlisberger’s contract in order to spread out the salary cap hit of the new singing bonus, but with both sides agreeing that he would not play beyond the 2021 season under the terms of that contract. The same amount of money could be turned into singing bonus, but it could be spread over more seasons without the team needing to worry about Roethlisberger attempting to stay and play well into his 40s.

Such an extension would look something like this on paper for the 2021 season:

But after the contract gets voided in 2022, the result would be something like this:

The final method would simply be negotiating a reduced contract for Roethlisberger in 2021. This is the only way for the team to get Roethlisberger’s cap hit for 2021 below about $27 million, and depending on how much he is willing to give up, could get as low as $23,325,000 in this example:

The earlier options would make Roethlisberger whole in 2021, with his entire due salary of $19 million get paid out this year and the cap impacts of that payment being spread out over several seasons.

This final option helps the team the most in 2021, but also involves Roethlisberger forgoing some of his negotiated salary, something the other options do not. It’s not clear if Roethlisberger of his representation will be willing to do that.

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