Despite starting the season 11-0, a lot has been made about Ben Roethlisberger’s performances, raising questions about his contract situation. Let’s take a look at Ben Roethlisberger’s remaining contract, the salary owed to him, and what options the Steelers have in 2021.
Ben Roethlisberger’s contract details & bonuses
In 2019, the Steelers signed Ben Roethlisberger to a two-year contract extension. The contract was worth $68 million, with $37.5 million guaranteed at signing, all of which was in a signing bonus. However, with Roethlisberger due a $12.5 million roster bonus in 2020, the Steelers restructured his deal.
Following the re-structure, Roethlisberger counted $23.75 million against the cap in 2020. However, that salary cap charge jumps a lot in 2021.
Roethlisberger has one year remaining on his contract
2021 will be the final year of Ben Roethlisberger’s two-year contract extension. However, the Steelers have a tough decision to make. Roethlisberger is due to be paid a $15 million roster bonus on the third day of the 2020 league year. The Steelers can avoid paying that if they were to cut Roethlisberger. Additionally, none of Ben Roethlisberger’s $4 million in base salary is guaranteed.
How does Roethlisberger’s contract affect the Steelers’ salary cap?
The problem with Ben Roethlisberger’s cap comes thanks to the restructuring of the deal. When the two-year contract extension was signed, the $37.5 million signing bonus was pro-rated across 2019, 2020, and 2021. That cap hit calculated out to be $12.5 million per year. However, with the Steelers needing cap space in 2020, they had to adjust Roethlisberger’s contract.
The restructure has pushed a lot of money into 2021
When the restructuring was done with Ben Roethlisberger’s contract, they converted salary and roster bonus into a $19.5 million restructure bonus. That restructure bonus is then pro-rated across the remaining years of the deal. Therefore, in 2020 and 2021, Roethlisberger has a total of $22.25 million in pro-rated bonus money counting against the salary cap.
Combining that money with the $15 million roster bonus and Ben Roethlisberger’s $4 million base salary, adds up to a salary-cap hit of $41.25 million. That $41.25 million accounts for 22.7 percent of the Steelers 2021 projected salary cap.
Could we be seeing Roethlisberger’s last season in Pittsburgh?
While it seems improbable that the Steelers would move on from Roethlisberger, it is not impossible. The Steelers are projected to be around $20 million over the 2021 salary cap. The Steelers could save a large chunk of that simply by moving on from Ben Roethlisberger and his contract.
Cutting Ben Roethlisberger would save $19 million for the Steelers
Cutting Ben Roethlisberger and getting his remaining salary and roster bonus off the books is certainly an option. With none of Roethlisberger’s remaining money guaranteed, the Steelers could save $19 million by parting ways. They would still carry a $22.25 million cap charge due to the bonus payments. However, with 2021 being the final year of Roethlisberger’s deal, they would not see the additional pain of future money accelerating onto their 2021 cap.
Would another team be willing to trade for Roethlisberger?
If the Steelers and Roethlisberger were planning to part ways, a trade would be ideal for Pittsburgh. With a trade, the Steelers would at least get some value back for the departure of Roethlisberger. It may not be much, but given the state of Ben Roethlisberger’s contract and salary, a team may be willing to send over a mid-round draft pick.
The team acquiring Roethlisberger would only be on the hook for the remaining $19 million on Roethlisberger’s deal. The Steelers would still retain the $22.25 million on their cap in the event of a trade. Getting a proven starting QB for $19 million could be an interesting deal to another team. As far as we know there is not a no-trade clause in Roethlisberger’s deal, but given his longevity with the franchise, the Steelers would likely discuss any destination with him.
Could we see another extension?
Another contract extension for Ben Roethlisberger is possible. His play in 2020 is not promising about what the future may hold, but the Steelers and Roethlisberger could be willing to deal. The 2022 salary cap is expected to be higher than in 2021. Therefore, the Steelers could push some of the $19 million into 2022 and beyond. That could either be in the form of a viable contract or putting void years at the end of his deal. The void years option is something we have seen the likes of Tom Brady and Drew Brees have in their contracts.
Of all the options, some sort of extension for Roethlisberger feels the most likely. The Steelers will not want to see Roethlisberger lead another challenger. Additionally, Roethlisberger may not want to finish his career outside of Pittsburgh. There will likely be some movement on Ben Roethlisberger’s contract this offseason. Now we just need to wait and see exactly what the Steelers and Roethlisberger decide to do when the season ends.
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