Many in Steeler Nation wondered if LaMarr Woodley would be released during the upcoming offseason after the oft injured outside linebacker was placed on the Reserve/Injured List yesterday.
Jason Worilds has finally blossomed this fall at Woodley’s left outside linebacker spot (team-leading 7.0 sacks), and the fourth-year player has definitely made the former Michigan Wolverine expendable with his play during his contract campaign.
While Woodley’s piss-poor play and injury-prone nature have made him a prime candidate for the franchise to cut, the decision to release him and extend Worilds will not be necessarily easy. In fact, if the Steelers’ brass decide to execute those two plans, then they will have to re-sign Worilds and release Woodley in that order.
I am sure that some of you are asking the following question?
Why is it imperative that the Steelers re-sign Worilds before they make a decision on Woodley?
Well readers, it all comes down to the economics of cap space and personnel insurance.
As far as future cap space is concerned, the Steelers could theoretically release Woodley in March. While the move itself would allow the team to clear the outside linebacker off of their books after the 2014 season, Woodley would still account for $14.17 million in dead money according to Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. For those playing the home game, $14.17 million represents around one-tenth of Pittsburgh’s projected salary cap next year.
Designating Woodley as a June 1st cut, like the organization did with Willie Colon last season, would probably be the most cost-effective route the Steelers could go if they released the veteran. Pittsburgh would be able to defer just over $8.5 million of dead money towards their 2015 salary cap with that move, and it would definitely help the cap-strapped franchise.
Unfortunately for Pittsburgh’s brass, Woodley’s 2014 cap hit of $13.59 million would still count against the organization and the salary cap until he is released from the roster. In essence, Woodley would still be eating away payroll from the time free agency starts (mid-late March) until June 1st.
With the way Worilds has emerged this season, there is no way that he will be on the open market as a UFA for close to three months. Thus, if Pittsburgh’s coaching staff and front office want to keep him, they will need to find a way to sign him to a long-term deal before they even decide to release Woodley.
For insurance purposes, the Steelers’ brass will also need to wait to make a decision on Woodley in the event that Worilds simply wants to play elsewhere and leaves before Pittsburgh makes an offer. The Keenan Lewis situation from last summer represents a perfect example, and Pittsburgh will need Woodley back for at least one more season if Worilds skips town.
Chris Carter is not striking fear into anybody at the moment, while the recently-signed Jamaal Westerman has yet to take a snap on the defensive side of the ball for the Steelers. Depth could be a huge issue, so those in charge in Pittsburgh will need to hedge their bets on Worilds potentially wanting to exit.
Woodley would be the only player on the roster with any experience at the left outside linebacker position entering next season if Worilds leaves. If that occurs, then the team will need to keep the veteran on the payroll.
Of course, those in Pittsburgh’s front office could have had an inkling foresight like this character and understood that handing a lucrative pay day was a moronic decision to begin with back in 2011. Sadly for thee Steelers, they will be forced to deal with a complete and total mess during the upcoming months.
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