Mister Woodley Franchised, Face Me Ike Waits

First, let me apologize for my erratic posting schedule the past week or so.  I’ve been waylaid by the Avian Flu so haven’t felt much like posting as you may well imagine.  I’m starting to feel a bit better so I should get back to my Pittsburgh Steelers Report Cards and other stuff in short order.

Anyway, in between trips to the bathroom, I saw on Friday that the Steelers placed the Franchise tag on LaMarr Woodley.  This is interesting for a few reasons.  Not the least of which is the salary cap implications.  Last season, Mister Woodley made $550,000.  Next year, he’ll make a cool $10 million.

The use of the Franchise tag on Woodley as well as Michael Vick and Peyton Manning seems to indicate the owners think it’ll be part of the next CBA.  Maybe, maybe not.  It’s well known the players hate it and if they walked in to the meeting room and said “Get rid of the tag and you can have your 18 games” it would likely be gone before the owners could start smiling like a butcher’s dog.  Thanks Mike Lange.

Also expected to be part of the next CBA is a salary cap.  This is where Woodley’s new salary presents an interesting situation.  The last cap (in 2009) was approximately $127 million.  The Steelers’ payroll back then was about $120 million.  Since then, the only significant salary which has come off the books has been Fast Willie Parker.

Everybody else has gone up.  James Harrison went from $1.4 million to an estimated $7 million+ next season.  Ben Roethlisberger‘s contract extension signed three years ago is also going to increase his cap hit by about $2 million.  Factor in Woodley’s salary going up almost 10x and that leaves the Steelers with precious little cap room assuming the new cap is determined the same way as the old one (as a percentage of revenues).

Therein lies the problem.  The owners are trying to roll back player salaries by changing the method revenue is shared much like they do in hockey.  In simpler terms, they want the players to accept a smaller share of the pie.  Since the size of the pie determines how big the cap is, a smaller slice by extension would equal a smaller cap. Good for lousy teams like Detroit or Carolina who only have a few highly paid players on the roster.  Bad for the Steelers who have already committed big money to their stars.

Since we have no idea when the CBA will be ironed out and what it will say, this is all speculation.  But it does open up a pretty big potential can of worms for this team.  Do they use whatever scant space left under the cap to bring back Ike Taylor and basically go into next year with the exact same team?  Or do they lose Ike because they can’t pay him enough?  If they lose Face Me Ike, are you prepared for B-Mac and Willie Gay to be your starting corners?  The thought of that gives me the chills.  Or perhaps that’s the bird flu.  Either way, I’m pleased Woodley will continue to be part of the best defense in the NFL but I’d be lying if I said I’m not worried about the cost.

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