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Re-Sign Jason Worilds By Granting His Starting Demands


By Matthew Marczi

As those who have followed my articles here at Steelers Depot are likely aware, I prefer to write and approach topics from a certain angle. I like to take what I see on film and what I know about the Pittsburgh Steelers organization and its habit in order to objectively formulate what I believe the likely outcome to be.

Rarely do I write anything that is clearly and solely my opinion about what I personally would do; in other words, most of what I do is trying to guess what the general manager will do, not playing the general manager myself.

This will not be one of those articles, so consider this my advice column for the front office.

Assure Jason Worilds his starting spot and re-sign him.

This would be my main priority during this offseason. Worilds spoke to ESPN’s Scott Brown yesterday that he is open to re-signing with the team ahead of the official start of free agency on March 11—that is, if he’s assured that he will be a starter.

That is a more than reasonable request for a former second-round draft pick entering his fifth season. He spent his first three seasons playing behind James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, and was often snake-bitten out of opportunities to start due to injuries of his own.

In 2011, when Harrison missed four games due to an orbital bone fracture, Worilds also missed the same four games with a hamstring injury. The Steelers settled for a very uninspiring four-game stint with Lawrence Timmons at outside linebacker. In 2012, while still recovering from a significant wrist surgery, the starting spot for the first few games in place of Harrison went to Chris Carter.

Quite simply, Worilds has never had the consistent playing time to either prove himself or learn the game through experience. That is until this year, during which he made 11 starts after being humiliated by having Jarvis Jones start over him for four weeks.

When Worilds took over the left outside linebacker spot for Woodley after his injury, he literally took over the spot. As in he made the left outside linebacker spot Jason Worilds’ spot. As in when Woodley came back, he played on the right side, and when Jones came into the game, Woodley came off the field instead of Worilds.

Let me be clear: I do not believe that the second-half performance that Worilds turned in this past season was a fluke by any means. I truly believe that he simply finally ‘got it’. Success breeds confidence. Once he got his pass-rushing spin move working, he used it frequently and with confidence—and with success.

Worilds finished the season with eight sacks, and seven of them came from Week Nine and on—recalling that he missed the final game of the season—so he had seven sacks in his final  eight games of the year. That span also includes 16 of his 21 quarterback hurries, and 20 of his league-leading 21 quarterback hits.

That’s all fine and good, but the true beauty of Worilds’ improvement was not in the passing game, but rather the significant strides that he took playing the run. Quite honestly, he looked like Harrison at times out there playing against the run. 63 tackles is a very nice season total for a 3-4 outside linebacker in 16 games. Woodley has never had 63 tackles. Worilds did that in 15 games and 11 starts.

More importantly, if you re-sign Worilds now, he becomes your future, and he has a brighter future than Woodley does right now. Worilds will soon be 26 and is only now emerging, with legitimate room for growth.

Woodley, who will be 30 in early November, has very serious concerns with chronic, repetitive soft tissue injuries that keep him off the field for stretches at a time and limit his performance when he returns, as we saw once again in 2013. These injuries increase the likelihood of recurrence the more they take place.

None the less, I would advocate retaining Woodley for this season and starting him at right outside linebacker, with Worilds at left, because I do not believe that Jones is ready to be an everyday starter. If or when he is ready to start at some point this year, it will be at Woodley’s expense.

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About Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • JAMESH

    Amen.

  • RW

    I’m all for endorsing competition, but I’m right there with you. Give this guy the job and move forward.

  • Jollyrob68

    Agreed, Worilds earned his status as a starter, Woodley on the right side and Jones can wait his turn like everyone else.

  • kakello34

    Anyone have any predictions as to what kind of money it will take to keep him?

  • steeltown

    Completely agree.. I wrote this on the other article, in the perfect scenario we keep Woodley and re-sign Worilds, then next offseason release Woodley when the cap dead money ramification of releasing him are far less and presumably they have already drafted depth from this year and next years draft to play behind Worilds and Jones, Jones of course then has another full season to hone his skills before starting at ROLB

  • RJ

    He has earned the right to enter camp as a starter, but no position should ever be given, if there is depth at the position. That being said I want to see sub-packages with all 3 OLB on the field.

  • steeltown

    Its hard to say, he had only the one fantastic year, but he still very young. My thinking is $7-8MIL per avg.. obviously his initial cap and base salary hit would be a friendly one, but maybe 5yrs $42MIL ($20MIL guaranteed) sort of like Paul Kruger who also got a nice contract after only one solid season… would be far more manageable than Woodleys contract and he is far younger and entering his prime

  • dgh57

    When you sign a guy to a big new contract it’s usually because he started and played well enough to get the new contract to begin with so you expect the guy to be the starter! It’s what come after that that concerns me thanks to the Woodley situation we now find ourselves in.

    Having said that Worilds is entering his PRIME years so if you sign him to a 4 year deal
    he’ll still only be 30 years old when his contract is up. I don’t consider his play as a fluke as well as lack of depth behind him if he isn’t resigned makes it almost a no-brainer whether to resign him.

  • cencalsteeler

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. From a GM standpoint, your behind the 8 ball with Woodley. You can get ahead of the game with Worilds. Sign him to a nice 4 year deal that would take him to being 30 years old. Monitor his performance and draft his replacement when Jason turns 28-30 (based on his play). His draft replacement should be groomed and ready to take over by then and you are ahead of the game, as opposed to behind, like some of our current positions are.

  • Axe Skot

    Yep

  • Joel Nye

    A player should never have to demand to be a starter. If he is the best option at the time of the start of the season due to his practice and play habits exhibited by him (action speak tons more than words) why would he ever have to demand the obvious? What a player who makes such a demand is saying is that he is fearful he can not back up a solid claim for him being number 1 and therefore must be given special treatment. I would not give any player, especially one who has battled 2nd and 3rd teamers for no better than being the ‘best of the rest’ for 80% of his career, who now needs to play on a specific side (against the lesser of the OT’s) anymore than what he has earned (slight pay raise- with clauses abound) if he goes back in the hole he finally took the time to stick his head out of for a few games.

  • Milliken Steeler

    I agree however, here is where maybe I don’t understand how this works. I would do exactly that with Worilds but I wouldn’t get myself in a Woodley bind based on 3/4 of a good season in four years.

    Is it a pride thing with the yearly salary number? The way I understand it is that the signing bonus doesn’t go against the cap correct? If I’m right then money is money regardless of the path that it chooses to take to your wallet. Why can’t we go four years at 6 million per and give him a rather large signing bonus? Something like 18 to 20 million of his contract guaranteed and we don’t have a cap number that paralyzes us again.

    I would go one more year on Woodley ( I guess) but ask him to take some kind of restructure. Even if its only 2 mill a year less. I think its fair to ask for something less as its been three years of injury related seasons.

  • Joel Nye

    Hopefully, not too much. This could be a total hit or miss proposition (usually not good for ownership). If they pay him big time money, they better pray his late arrival (way late and still tempered by poor run defense) was not a sudden urge to get off the couch and get a paycheck. If it was, big money makes those types (way too many in the NFL these days) real fat and uninspired- real quick.

  • John Hinton

    Great post, Matthew. Perhaps the most compelling point you made was Worilds’ 63 tackles in 15 games.

  • Joel Nye

    Signing bonus counts as an average per year and can not be retracted even if the player does not fulfill the length of the contact. A 10 million dollar bonus on a 4 year contact for example counts as 2.5 million against the cap for the span of the contact. Even if the player does not stay with the team for the entire 4 years, 2.5 million of dead money must be added against the cap until the 4th year is completed. Ask Cincy how dangerous large bonuses and guaranteed money is against the cap.

  • Joel Nye

    Pro football reference has him listed at 43 tackles.

  • Milliken Steeler

    I did not realize that about the bonus however, he is going to get guaranteed money in that contract regardless. I would like the yearly cap number in totality to not be unnecessarily high.

  • PA2AK

    Maybe the demand stems from JJ getting the nod without truly earning it? That’d be my guess.

  • greeny

    Touchdown…I believe by him not ranting about cashing in, we could get him at a nice price tag. Plus we won’t have Polamalu, Taylor, Woodley, and Miller contracts in a couple of years which could allow some flexibility on the back end of a contract.

  • Matthew Marczi

    PFR’s “tackles” is solo or primary tackles, so with the 20 assists, it’s 63 tackles.

  • Alan Felicia

    Finally, someone making sense. Love how alot of people are already jumping on Worilds bandwagon. Am I the only one who thinks Worilds finally played his best in a Contract Year? He was mostly injured his first 2 years, inconsistent or non-existent his 3rd year, and was outplayed by a rookie this past pre-season. The guy had one year solid year! At least LaMarr Woodley put up back to back seasons of double digits sacks (11.5 sacks-2008, 13.5 sacks in 2009) before being rewarded with a huge contract.
    Bottom line, Worilds is going to get paid whether its here in Pittsburgh or on another team. Any owner or GM who pays him a huge contract will expect Worilds to be a starter and play well consistently to live up to the money. Now, Worilds is worried about being a starter? This just show me Worilds is not confident enough about playing a high level consistently.

  • Alan Felicia

    Maybe JJ outplayed Worilds in the preseason.

  • Alan Felicia

    Well 43 solo tackles + 20 assisted tackles = 63 tackles.

  • Luke Shabro

    I need to remember to save this post. If the Steelers do re-sign Worilds I want to see if everyone feels the same in 2 years. I was pretty happy when they drafted Worilds and I thought he would develop into a solid starter. But it’s concerning that it took him until the second half of this year to “get it.” Not only that but he can only play well on the left side? Sounds like a guy I want to give a huge contract to. I’m probably just being a pessimistic contrarian idiot but if they do re-sign Worilds I foresee him being a middle of the road linebacker. I’m sure people will immediately jump on underproducing Woodley and I agree but I honestly believe cutting him isn’t the answer.

  • 243546

    I don’t see that as a realistic demand. No one should be handed a starting job. It needs to be competed for, and earned. The only promise that can be made, is that Worilds will be at the top of the depth chart when camp begins. Whether that carries through to the start of the season is up to him

  • Steve

    Timmons did a Great job last year. Why do want to take him off the field?

  • Steve

    Harrison took Joey Porters spot because Porter was on the decline and James was ready to play. Woodley is on the decline, so in another year, after him getting hurt again during the season, Jones will be ready to play.

  • PA2AK

    Would be amazing considering how he looked in games…never know I guess.

  • JAMESH

    There were times last season when you had Worilds, Woodley, Timmons and Jones together on the field.

  • JAMESH

    “Slow down………. slow down…………….”

  • joed32

    Worilds is nothing special on the right side but when he moves to the left side he’s a good pass rusher.

  • PA2AK

    Considering his untimely injuries and the two guys he’s been behind…maybe the concern is more than warranted? I agree there is uncertainty, but it’s not like he was backing up scrubs at OLB.

  • CrazyTerry

    The scary thing is the assessment ofJarvis Jones not being ready to be a quality starter next year. If a high draft pick cant be trusted to play well in his second year, he is a bust.

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