James Harrison Salary Cap Liability Moving Forward Into 2013
Friday, September 28th, 2012 by Dave Bryan
I took a good bit of ridicule early on in the offseason when I posted that it would not be surprising to see Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison miss a few games this season, and even more ridicule when I suggested that this would likely be his last season in the black and gold. It pained me to suggest that, but the writing certainly was on the wall.
Most took my prediction as ridicule of Harrison, but it was anything but that. I think what the former undrafted free agent has accomplished over the course of his career is mind blowing and he has changed the way the game is played as well. Harrison contributed greatly to the Super Bowl runs made by the Steelers over the course of his career and we will all never forget the interception return for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals, as it will forever be etched in our memories.
Reality, however, is reality and several Steelers fans are unable to accept the fact that because of his age and knee, that Harrison is likely close to being done as a Steeler.
Since Harrison suffered his latest setback earlier this week, I have received a few emails wanting me to address the financial situation regarding the Steelers linebacker, as I guess several are finally seeing the reality of the situation. I have done this in previous post, but I will recap it once again here during the bye week. In addition, a few wanted to know why the Steelers just didn't release him at the beginning of the season if they thought the knee was going to be a problem.
To start things off, there was no way the Steelers were going to outright release Harrison at the start of the season. Injury liability aside, Harrison has a base salary this season of $5.565 million and carries a cap charge of $9.03 million. His signing bonus acceleration amount, the amount that comes forward as a dead money hit if were to be cut prior to this past June 1st, was $9.86 million. So cutting him prior to that date would have cost the Steelers an additional $860K in cap space.
Cutting Harrison after June 1st would have allowed the Steelers to only take his original 2012 scheduled amortized signing bonus amount as a dead hit this year with the left over amount being charged off in 2013 as dead money. That means that releasing him after June 1st, and prior to the start of the season, would have cost the Steelers $3.465 million this season in dead money with another $5.565 million being charged off in 2013 as dead money.
All of the above aside, the long term outlook for Harrison was not likely known until recently. Did they think there was a possibility that he would likely miss some games to start the season? Perhaps, but they also likely thought they would have him back on the field following the bye week. Regardless, there was no way that he was going to be released prior to the start of the season and it is foolish for people to even suggest that it was an option.
The reality at this point in time is that we don't really know what is going on with the left knee of Harrison. Could he make it back at some point this season and contribute? One can hope, but the latest setback this week certainly threw some cold water on the situation. We will have to see what head coach Mike Tomlin has to say about the situation on Tuesday.
Fast forward now. So what happens next season? Harrison is scheduled to earn a base salary of $6.57 million and count $10.035 million against the cap. Releasing him prior to June 1st creates a $4.93 dead money hit for 2013, but essentially saves the team a little over $5.1 million against the cap. While the move could come after June 1st, it would only create an additional savings of $1.465 million in 2013 by doing so, with that money becoming a dead hit in 2014.
Could Harrison agree to a pay cut? Sure, he could, but I really do not see that happening as it would have to be a $5.57 million cut in 2013 to make it worth while. If Harrison thinks he can still play at his best, he will not give that money back as he would likely rather just walk away from the game altogether.
For now, just pray that the left knee of Harrison gets better and that he is able to contribute at some point this season, and contribute at a level that we have become accustomed to seeing. That is all that is important right now as the financial end will ultimately take care of itself.