The Pittsburgh Steelers made their first big move in free agency and, true to form, the move was wholly contained within the South Side.
Starting right nose tackle Casey Hampton, still recovering from an ACL injury suffered in the Steelers playoff loss to Denver, has agreed to accept a pay cut.
Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette described the move as a “restructuring” while Dale Lolley of From the NFL Sidelines and Scott Brown of the Tribune-Review described the move as a cut.
According to Brown, Hampton agreed to take a 2 million dollar salary reduction and forgo a 1 million dollar roster bonus.
Brown also reports that this move brings the Steelers to 6 to 8 million below the cap – this number is significant, because previous reports had pegged the Steelers at 1.5 million to 2 million below the cap.
Either way the additional cap space is welcome. The move could allow the Steelers to seal Mike Wallace to a long term deal; it could likewise free up money for Jericho Cotchery, William Gay, or a free agent from another team.
Home Town Discount, or Homegrown Prudence?
Casey Hampton’s had been rumored to be the next cap casualty and/or a candidate for a salary cut. The fact that Hampton agreed to play for less is slightly surprising, given that he is in the final year of what is likely his final NFL contract.
However, he will be 35 when the season starts and is recovering from a serious knee. On top of that, the Steelers run defense had a below par year in 2011 – for Pittsburgh – and while it would be grossly unfair to finger Hampton for all of this, the nose tackle is the fulcrum on which the success of the 3-4 defense rises and falls.
Kevin Colbert had indicated that he wanted and expected Hampton back during the NFL scouting combine, but rumors of Hampton’s expendability nonetheless persisted.
By agreeing to a pay cut, Hampton all but ensured that he will be drawing a pay check for the 2012 NFL season, and pocketing a extra million in change beats making nothing.
For their part, the Steelers also avoided putting themselves in a position where the would HAVE to draft a nose tackle in the top 2 or 3 rounds. (With that said, the Steelers must get serious about finding and grooming Hampton’s successor.)
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