Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting today that the Pittsburgh Steelers and Bill Parise, the agent of outside linebacker James Harrison, are currently in discussions regarding the team’s options of reducing the soon to be 35 year old’s salary cap impact in 2013.
Harrison, who signed a long term six year deal following the 2008 season during which he was named the Defensive Player of the Year and made one of the biggest plays in Super Bowl history, is scheduled to earn $6.57 million this season, and $7.575 million in 2014, the last year on his deal.
Said Parise, “we’re talking”. He added that “both sides want to try to do something. We’re trying to find common ground”.
Likely, the Steelers are asking Harrison to take a pay cut in order to preserve his spot on the roster. Last offseason, the Steelers gave nose tackle Casey Hampton an ultimatum of sorts: take a $3 million pay cut or get released.
The team does have some leverage in a pool of young linebackers waiting in the wings. Both Jason Worilds, a former second round pick, and Chris Carter have starting experience as they filled in for Harrison and Woodley while injured over the past two seasons.
The team also has Adrian Robinson, who came to the team as an undrafted rookie and made the team as a rare ninth linebacker because the Steelers did not want to risk exposing him on their practice squad.
For Parise and Harrison, however, they are likely arguing for another means of reducing the salary cap hit that does not involve a flat pay cut. For example, the team could give Harrison an extension at a reduced salary, which would allow the team to spread out the cap hit from 2013 on to the life of the remaining contract, even though those years neither side expect to be fulfilled.
Although the Steelers are under the salary cap, they still much make additional room, especially after signing William Gay to a three year, $4.5 million contract yesterday. They still need money to sign their restricted free agents and impending 2013 draft class, and they will certainly need room if they have any hope of re-signing unrestricted free agent Keenan Lewis, though signs are pointing to him being allowed to walk.
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