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Steelers Free Agency 2012: How Much Money Could Steelers Save By Releasing Hines Ward?

Rumors have been coming out over the past few weeks that the Steelers are considering releasing longtime wide receiver Hines Ward, even though Ward is willing to restructure his contract to stay with the team. Our Steelers blog Behind The Steel Curtain caught up with Brian McIntyre of Football Outsiders who breaks down just how much money the Steelers could save by jettisoning Ward.

$4 million is a lot of cash to pay a 36-year-old wide receiver who averaged 8.3 yards per reception, so he may have to lower his base salary to the veteran minimum ($925,000) and hope to make the rest up via incentives. Following the same restructure model as Smith, Timmons and Woodley -- lowering his base to the league minimum, paying the rest in a signing bonus -- even spreading that out over the maximum five seasons, would save the Steelers $2.46 million. Releasing Ward outright would clear $3.39 million.

So if everything breaks correctly and Ward is willing to take the league minimum then it seems like they could save just under a million dollars by releasing him. I think it would be hard to justify for fans that they won't keep Ward around for under a million if he is willing to take the league minimum to stay with the team.

For more on the Steelers offseason, check out this SB Nation Pittsburgh StoryStream. For more on the Steelers, check out Behind The Steel Curtain.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.