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.