Why A New Deal For Woodley Will Be Steelers First Priority When Lockout Ends

LaMarr WoodleyAs soon as the lockout is over, the Steelers first course of business will likely be getting outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley signed to a new deal. Should the pre-lockout franchise tag and amounts stick, as many think they will, Woodley will be on the 2011 books as a $10 million plus salary cap hit due to being franchised. John Clayton posted this afternoon that it looks like the 2011 salary cap will be in the neighborhood of $117-125 million this year. Using an approximate number of $120 million like Clayton did in his article, this would put the Steelers $10 million plus over the cap at this current time. His total salary numbers are pretty close to the ones I posted following the end of the 2010 season, so my individual numbers are pretty close.

Clayton echoes my thoughts from late last month that both tackle Flozell Adams and defensive end Aaron Smith could be out the door should both insist on not taking pay cuts. Judging by my numbers, both Adams and Smith total up to a little over $11 million in salary cap charges in 2011 as Adams is a flat $5 million charge with no signing bonus included and Smith stands to earn a base alone of $4.5 million. As you can see, trimming those salaries alone is still not enough and thus the importance of getting Woodley extended as soon as possible becomes a priority before even attempting to re-sign either Ike Taylor or Willie Colon.

Veterans like Antwaan Randle El and Larry Foote might be shown the door sooner than expected as well due to the crunch. As I mentioned this week, El would offer a savings of around $1.7 million while Foote would save another $1.8 million. Both players were signed as free agents last season, but neither is expected to be any more than a back-up in 2011 and not cheap ones at that. Safety Troy Polamalu is entering the final year of his contract as well in 2011 and the Steelers might consider extending him out to push some money forward if at all possible. The goal of course would be to lock him up while lowering his 2011 cap charge.

As tight against the cap they will still appear to be though, you can almost certainly rule out the re-signing of both Taylor and Colon as it looks to now be an either/or scenario and perhaps even neither/nor if indeed the 2011 cap number is as low as Clayton suggest it will be. As I wrote yesterday, it looks even less likely now that they will even sign a second tier free agent corner if indeed Taylor is not brought back.

Knowing the Steelers, they probably saw this coming for a while now and it is why Woodley was franchised and Taylor and Colon still do not have new contracts. It also better constitutes the drafting of two cornerbacks and two offensive linemen as well back in April. Woodley has had a great attitude since being hit with the tag prior to the lockout and it leads me to believe there might be some sort of a handshake deal already in place. I would not be surprised to hear the new contract announced just after the lockout ends and veterans like Adams, El and Foote could very well be shown the door prior to the start of training camp, especially if the Steelers do not have them penciled in as making the 53 man roster.

  • SteelHawk55

    Out of the names you mentioned. It is my opinion the Steelers would be best served keeping Ike and either Flo or Smith. Ike and Colon would be best but you say that doesn’t look like it’s possible. To me, Ike is a no brainer. People make a big deal about his hands but I don’t care if my corners can catch. I want them to cover their man as best as possible. There’s not many better than Ike at doing that. Not to mention he’s willing and ready in run support. The big thing with Ike, to me is his work ethic and durability combined with his skillset. The guy is a complete gym rat and I don’t see his play diminishing for a few years. And he’s nit an off the field issue.

  • Dave Bryan

    I have been for keeping Ike all summer if you read back. I do think though the chances of retaining both Ike & Colon are slim though, but I hope it somehow happens.

  • Yossarian

    If the Steelers are about $10M over the cap when free agency begins, isn’t that a huge problem? To sign the 2011 draft class and basic free agents (e.g., Legursky, Hoke, Spaeth, Mundy, Sepulveda, Suisham, Warren, Moore, maybe J. Scott, or their position equivalents), won’t it take at least another $10M in cap space? And that is all before getting to the Ike Taylor question (not to mention extending Timmons). How would the Steelers clear $20M (or more, to retain Taylor) in cap space?

    If you reduce Woodley’s cap hit and cut Randle El and Battle, I am pretty sure you save less than $9M. Adams and Smith are big cap charges, but there are two problems with cutting them — you lose valuable players (even if they don’t have many years left) and you have to sign people to replace them, thereby losing some of the savings. If you cut Adams, you need to sign Colon, J. Scott, or another veteran right tackle. If you cut Smith, you have to sign Eason. It would be great if Smith or Adams would agree to a reduced salary, but I’m not sure how much less, if anything, they would be willing to accept. Whether by reducing their salaries or releasing them and signing replacements, maybe you save $3-8M (depending on the replacements). What else is left? Restructure Ben’s contract to push some of the charge into the future? Replace Foote with Fox? If you could get significant savings ($3M) from cutting Kemoeatu, that would be attractive, but I don’t think the savings are there because of the dead money. Can’t cut McFadden without signing Taylor or Gay. But signing Taylor would add even more pressure to reducing other salaries; and Steelers are unlikely to cut McFadden if they don’t sign Taylor.

  • SteelersDepot

    Yes & extending Troy is also a possibility in addition. As I mentioned, Taylor & Colon look to be an either/or or a neither/nor. Scott will not be expensive. Mark Kaboly seems to think that Aaron Smith will indeed take a pay cut. Your 7 draft picks will not be expensive by the time the dust settles. Heyward & Gilbert of course the biggest numbers. Adams is as good as gone if he does not restructure a ton. Legursky, Hoke, Spaeth, Gay & Mundy combined will not be too terribly expensive either. Remember that the rule of 51 will be in play, so they have time. Timmons extension will be put off & he will likely wear the tag next offseason. Not to mention as you say, Ben might re-work his deal too. They may choose to go young on the line at right tackle with Gilbert if Colon or Adams are both not there. I think they can get that number down quick.

  • Yossarian

    I didn’t think extending Troy would affect the cap very much, but looking at it again, that could be a very significant piece of the puzzle. There are also rumors of certain exceptions that may be allowed for 2011.

    I hope they extend Troy, reduce Smith’s salary (but keep him), and somehow fit Taylor in (although the numbers don’t look good right now, esp since several teams will need to spend money in buckets to reach the new floor). I don’t have a strong opinion re RT.