INDIANAPOLIS – Yes, the primary purpose of being here for a week in late February is to evaluate the 330 prospects taking part in the NFL Scouting Combine. In that sense, it's all about the kids.
But because the entire NFL community lives within a several block radius of the downtown area, there also are opportunities to conduct some other football business.
Back on Feb. 14, General Manager Kevin Colbert said, "The Combine brings together is a nice, collective group of people where most parties involved are within a five-block area, so communication is easy. It can be face-to-face instead of over the telephone if you want it to be."
A group always represented here during Combine week is player agents. Even though the NFL prohibits teams from contacting agents of players on other teams who are due to become free agents until March 8, there is no limitation on talking to agents of your own players and/or to agents of players who have been released by their former team.
So, for example, if Colbert wanted to spend his afternoon talking with Jason Worilds' agent about a new contract, that's OK. Or if, for example, he wanted to talk to Louis Delmas' agent about bringing the former Lions' safety to the Steelers, that's OK, too, since Delmas, who recently visited the team's facility in Pittsburgh, is fair game to the entire league because he was released by Detroit.
There is a lot of multi-tasking going on here this week, and then on Thursday morning there was a report by ESPN's Adam Schefter that the salary cap for 2014 will be $130 million per team. If true, the $130 million would represent a 5 percent increase over the 2013 figure. Colbert was asked about the report during a phase of his media tour at Lucas Oil Stadium today.
"I think that is a welcomed rumor," said Colbert with a smile. "We haven't gotten any information on the cap, and I don't anticipate us getting it until really close to March 11. So whether it goes up or not, we have to prepare for the worst and see where it lands. You don't want to have a false hope that it's going to be ($130 million) and then it's not. So, we still have to prepare off what we were working with last year, and then maybe add to it. Again, those numbers (like $130 million) start floating around, but they haven't been substantiated."
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the salary cap is based on the league's revenues – including broadcast rights revenues, ticket sales, merchandising, and other elements – with reports estimating that players receive around 48 percent of that total.
"When you're trying to judge the cap, there's a different facet every day," said Colbert. "You read about the cap maybe going up. You talk to an agent of your own player, and maybe his perception of his guy's market value isn't what we were hoping it was going to be. You come to the Combine and this college player you thought was at one level turns out to be better, or maybe he turns out to be worse. With so many moving parts between now and March 11, it's hard to nail it down."
It's hard to nail down, but the Steelers know it's also an inevitability. And so they plot and plan and talk to agents and scour the list of the 330 who are here, with the idea of hammering out a way to be at $127 million on March 11.
And so if Colbert's prayers are answered and it turns out to be $130 million instead of $127 million, does that save a guy, or does it provide some seed money to sign a free agent from another team?
"That could go either way," said Colbert, "because the first thing we have to do is get in compliance, and so if the cap comes in higher then that's less compliance work we have to do. So maybe it saves a guy you were talking about terminating, or maybe you still want to terminate that guy and get another guy. I keep saying it, and it's really the truth: This thing changes every day.
"The (report of the) possibility of the cap going up, we only heard about it this morning. That was the first time I heard anything about it."