My how times have changed.
LaMarr Woodley was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ must-sign free agent during the spring of 2011. Many in Steeler Nation clamored for the front office to ink the outside linebacker to a long-term contract extension at that time, and many had vitriol towards those who opposed such a move.
Unfortunately for Woodley’s fans and Steelers fans alike, the outside linebacker has been an injury-prone, underachieving flop since he signed his extension worth $61.5 million almost three years ago.
Pathetic play and questions about his commitment from teammates aside, that hasn’t stopped Woodley’s supporters from coming out of the woodwork and saying the following to anybody who will listen:
Granted, I am sure that probably 95-99 percent of people who are on the anti-Woodley bandwagon were over the moon when the team inked him to the highest-paid contract for a defensive player in team history. Yet I have news for those Woodley supporters and those who simply dismiss every single critic of his:
Don’t lump me into that group.
In fact, I tried to warn everybody I could three years ago that extending Woodley to a mega-deal would not be in the franchise’s best interests. I even went to great length back in 2011 to share my thoughts on the subject on this website when I was employed as a staff writer.
For the sake of brevity, I will not regurgitate the entire piece (here). Nevertheless, I feel it is necessary to highlight how I had the foresight to know that the Steelers would need extra cap space so they could rebuild their offensive line and ink offensive stars like Mike Wallace and Maurkice Pouncey in the future. Fair market value for what Woodley was paid aside, the team had far more pressing issues to address as they entered a rebuilding phase.
In addition, I understood that the shelf-life of pass-rushers of Woodley’s caliber was generally four-to-six years at most. I also saw how much Woodley’s production skyrocketed due to the presence of 2008’s Defensive MVP James Harrison and one of the best five-techniques of the 2000’s in the form of Aaron Smith.
I even questioned why the Steelers would hand money to a pass rush-only outside linebacker of his then-age and caliber. All one had to do was look back into recent history to see how short the high-productivity spans for most pass-rushers have been on Pittsburgh’s defense. I for one did, and I also found that the team always had a capable replacement developed and ready to play when they let a talented pass rusher walk for cap reasons.
Of course, my analysis and belief that the team should add the money they handed to Woodley to players to make their offense more explosive and competent was met with strong criticism. I however could have cared less and still do. I knew what a moronic decision it was in 2011, and I will always stand by my belief that the front office royally screwed themselves with that hefty extension.
Right now the Steelers’ brass have a momentous decision to make regarding Woodley’s future with the franchise. As much as I would like to see him released, his enormous cap-hit could hurt the team from a salary cap perspective even more if they decide to try to ink Jason Worilds this offseason as well.
Regardless of what transpires during the spring and summer, I am happy to know that I saw Woodley’s extension for the cap-crippling and misguided reach it was back in 2011. Sadly, the Pittsburgh Steelers are paying dearly for it from both financial and football perspectives.
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