Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds will be an unrestricted free agent come the start of the new league year and the former second-round draft pick is open to re-signing as long as he is able to start.
“If the circumstances are right, for sure,” Worilds told ESPN.com Friday during a telephone interview, according to Scott Brown. “They haven’t been right for me in the past. I wouldn’t want to fall back into (not starting) again.”
Worilds, who started the 2013 season at right outside linebacker, was quickly overtaken on the depth chart by rookie first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones, but won back the spot by Week 7. When left outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley went down with a calf injury in Week 10, however, Worilds took over as the starter on that side and finished the season as the team leader in sacks with eight.
With Woodley now having missed 14 games over the course of the last three seasons due to hamstring, ankle and calf injuries, the Steelers likely now have to decide whether or not to keep him or Worilds, who figures to be one of the top two or three free agent 3-4 outside linebackers on the market come March. Releasing Woodley as a post June 1st cap casualty would eventually clear $8 million in salary cap space come that date, but would also result in a 2015 dead money charge of $8.58 million.
During a conference call with season ticket holders a few weeks ago, Steelers team president Art Rooney II said that he hopes Worilds can be re-signed. As for right now, the Virginia Tech product is just waiting for the Steelers to tell him what their plans are for him.
“I’ve just been patient and (waiting to) see how the Steelers view me,” Worilds said, per the report by Brown “The biggest thing is just being in the right situation.”
Releasing Woodley or not re-signing Worilds would leave the Steelers with serious depth issues at the outside linebacker position and would almost guarantee that another early draft pick would need to be spent on the position in May. In addition, Jones really didn’t produce during his rookie season despite playing nearly 650 snaps.
The Steelers still have Chris Carter under contract for one more season, but he’s shown virtually nothing in the 235 defensive snaps that he’s played since being drafted in the fifth-round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Keeping both Worilds and Woodley would be a sign that Jones still isn’t ready to start and unless he were to be moved inside, which is highly unlikely to happen, it would result in him being relegated to mostly playing special teams during his second season.
We told you that this would be a talking point all offseason and it will continue to be for at least six more weeks. Worilds holds a lot of leverage right now and his side knows it.