The Pittsburgh Steelers have been struggling with their salary cap since the regular season ended, and while they managed to shave off over $30 million by restructuring contracts and cutting veterans, they're still perilously close to the $120.6 million allocated to teams this year.
The Steelers went into free agency with $10 million in cap space but used $9 million of that tendering deals to six of their restricted free agents. One million dollars isn't nearly enough cash to sign their 2012 rookie class, and even with the extra $1.6 million, the team is receiving as a result of the cap-related punishments against the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, more moves are necessary.
Thus, the team restructured the contract of nose tackle Casey Hampton. Hampton was set to make $4.89 million in base salary in 2012, plus a $1 million workout bonus. In the restructure, the bonus was removed and his base salary reduced to $2.8 million, lowering his $8.057 cap hit by just over $3 million.
It was surprising the Steelers chose to restructure Hampton rather than cut him entirely. He's on the final year of his contract and recently underwent ACL surgery, putting his chances to take the field at the start of the 2012 season in jeopardy.
However, the restructuring now gives the Steelers over $5 million in cap space to work with—just enough for their rookies. Other restructures may be coming, but Hampton's at least puts the Steelers in a far better situation, even if they cannot afford to be players in free agency this year.