On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Steelers released a statement from Stephon Tuitt announcing his retirement from the NFL. While some Steelers fans were quite surprised, others saw the possibility months ago.
It is no coincidence that the announcement was made on June 1st. When looking at player salary and salary cap impact, June 1st is a very important date. If a player is fired or retires from the NFL before June 1, all remaining dead money from their salary will become due for the upcoming season. But after June 1st, only the dead money was due in this season is counted towards the salary cap and the dead money from further years is fully counted towards the salary cap of the following year.
As June 1st brought another wave of players into free reign while teams waited to manage their salary caps, the NFL developed a system more than a decade ago that allowed teams to select up to two players who dismissed them before June 1st than with a designation after June 1st. This meant that additional salary cap money would be due once June 1st arrived and the player could enter free hand by the time of its release. This practice is still used in the NFL today, with a number of players being released this offseason and carrying a post-June 1 designation.
A post-June 1 designation comes into play not only when a player is released, but also when the player is traded. When the Steelers traded Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders after the 2018 NFL season, they had the option of naming Brown with post-June 1 status. Instead, the Steelers decided to take all of the dead money that single season to get Brown’s contract completely off the books.
So while NFL teams up to two people per release or swap as Post-1. June designation, this will not work if a player retires. During the 2021 offseason, quarterback Drew Brees officially delayed his retirement until June so the New Orleans Saints could spread his $23 million dead money cap across two separate seasons.
Now that we have a more thorough explanation of what June 1 means in the NFL year, how does that affect the salary cap when it comes to Stephon Tuitt? First, let’s take a look at what the rest of Tuitt’s contract looked like before his retirement, according to overthecap.com:
$9,048,560 base salary
$4,925,750 prorated bonus
$13,975,750 cap reached
2023 to 2025:
$0 base salary (empty years)
$1,585,000 prorated bonus (every year)
$4,755,000 cap reached (all 2023)
The first thing that stands out from Tuitt’s contract now that he’s retired is the more than $9 million he’s due in base salary this season, which he will no longer receive. Had Stephon Tuitt retired two months ago, all money from his prorated bonuses would have matured this year and he would have had a dead money hit of $9,680,750. That amount would have saved the Steelers a salary cap of $4,295,000.
While lowering the salary cap by more than $4 million seems tempting, Stephon Tuitt’s announcement that he will be retiring after June 1 means that this season will only see the $4,925,750 in his prorated Count bonus for 2022. That’s why Tuitt will now save the Steelers $9,050,000 against the salary cap before accounting for the roster shift. After displacement, the savings are just over $8 million.
While it always seems better to have more salary cap savings, it now means the $4,755,000 that Tuitt wanted to count as dead money in 2023 still stands for this year. I played Tuitt in 2022 and didn’t sign a new contract. This is the amount of dead money the Steelers would have had due to the idle years added to his contract last season when it was restructured. So if the Steelers have that money already accounted for in 2023, nothing really changes for them in the next offseason.
One thing to remember is that all the money Stephon Tuitt will count towards the Pittsburgh Steelers salary cap is nothing he has left to pay. Tuitt has already collected those paychecks. But as teams often do with the salary cap, this is simply recalculating the money he’s already received.
The biggest catch to Stephon Tuitt’s contract is the fact that he will have contributed more than $18 million in total to the salary cap spanning three seasons from 2021 to 2023, in which he never appeared in a game for the Pittsburgh Steelers is. While less than half of that $9 million was paid to Tuitt last season, the remaining $9.2815 million comes in dead money.
For those looking for how much salary cap room the Steelers have after Stephon Tuitt resigns, that number will top $20.5 million, assuming there are no further surprises in the process. Once his contract is officially off the books, look here at Behind The Steel Curtain for a salary cap update.
For more on the impact of Stephon Tuitt’s resignation on the salary cap, see the latest episode of the Steeler’s statistics freak Podcast: