With Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds now fresh off a solid two game performance, the talk about re-signing him and releasing LaMarr Woodley during the offseason is of course back in high gear. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation floating around on this subject and so it is time for me to give you the facts about the situation.
For starters, Woodley is currently scheduled to count $13.59 million against the Steelers 2014 salary cap and that includes a base salary of $8 million. Cutting or trading Woodley prior to June 1st would result in a $14.17 million dead money hit, so essentially, it would cost the Steelers another $580,000 in cap space to do either of those two things.
Sure, the Steelers could designate Woodley a post June 1 cut just like they did this past offseason with guard Willie Colon and that would eventually defer $8.58 million of the dead money until 2015. Where several are missing the boat here is the fact that Woodley would still count a full $13.59 million against the cap until June 1st if released with that designation.
Keep in mind that the Steelers need to be cap compliant by the start of the new league year and oh yeah, Worilds is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent and thus would need to be re-signed long before June 1st.
Did I mention that the Steelers will need every extra cap dollar possible this coming offseason? Had the Steelers thought they might release Woodley and keep Worilds long-term, they wouldn't have restructured the contract of the former and pushed more potential immediate dead money into the future this past offseason. In addition, they would have made damn sure that they locked up Worilds prior to the start of this season.
Now, to the Woodley versus Worilds battle. Before suffering his calf injury, Woodley managed to post a 14.3 pass rushing productivity number, according to Pro Football Focus. That ranks him the third-best 3-4 outside linebacker in the league. Worilds, on the other hand, currently has a 10.1 pass rushing productivity number and a 11.0 number when rushing from the left side.
Woodley gets criticized for his recent missed games due to injuries and I can certainly understand the frustration of the fan base that goes along with that. However, the fan base also seems to forget just how injury prone that Worilds has been ever since he was drafted. He is on fire right now, however, and thus people refuse to include that fact in their narrative.
Look, I for one am very happy that Worilds has played well this season and I hope that it continues. However, two solid back-to-back games is just that. Should Woodley miss even more time this season and Worilds continue to fill in for him like he has the past two weeks, his free agent market value will continue to climb. There will be several teams in need of a 3-4 outside linebacker this upcoming offseason and I fully expect the Virginia Tech product to be in another uniform next season. Should he somehow wind up being retained, however, it won't come at the expense at Woodley.