A Look At What The Steelers Are Betting Against By Transition Tagging LB Jason Worilds

Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers have placed the transition tag on linebacker Jason Worilds, they will have the right to match any offer sheet he should sign with another team. With that being said, what kind of contract structure would they potentially have a tough time matching?

For starters, the Steelers use of the transition tag on Worilds means that they are prepared for him to count $9.754 million against their salary cap in 2014. So theoretically, any offer sheet that he should sign would have to exceed that amount in year-one of the deal in order for them to consider letting him walk away. This of course assumes a team doesn’t decide to severely overpay Worilds to the tune of $11 million a year with an ungodly amount of guaranteed money attached. Anything is possible, but let’s face it, Worilds has a ceiling as far as his market value goes.

So let’s assume a team thinks that Worilds is worth the same amount as Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger, who signed a five-year, $40.5 million contract during free agency last year. That deal only included a $6 million signing bonus, but also included a first-year guaranteed roster bonus of $6.285 million and guaranteed base salaries of $715,000 and $7 million in the first two years of the deal. In total, Kruger received $20 million guaranteed over the first two-years and his first-year cap hit was a lofty $8.2 million.

You can rearrange the first two years of that same deal above and produce a first-year cap charge of $11.2 million by merely giving a first-year guaranteed base salary of $3.715 million and a second-year guaranteed base salary of only $3 million. That contract still produces $20 million guaranteed over the first two years of the deal and even produces a lowly cap charge of just $5.2 million in the second year of the deal. The average yearly value of the deal, $8.1 million, hasn’t changed. What has changed, however, is the cash spent in year one, which is $16 million as opposed to $13 million. For teams way underneath the cap, this probably isn’t going to be that big of deal.

The good news about the contract scenario above, if you are one of the people hoping for the Steelers to retain Worilds, is that there is probably only eight or nine teams with enough cap space in 2014 that would be willing to structure a deal like that. On top of that, a team would have to wait until 11 days into free agency before getting Worilds to sign an offer sheet for such a deal. Even then, they would have to be sure the Steelers wouldn’t match it as they risk valuable time should that happen.

In other words, the Steelers are gambling that Worilds will not receive an offer sheet that not only overpays him, but one that will also be fair market value but severely poisoned by an outrageous first-year cap charge. It only takes one team, however, so the Steelers will have to sit and wait to see if that one team exist this year.

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • http://twitter.com/hoofdaddy Erik Hoffman

    Is the likely scenario that the Steelers hold onto Woodley til after June 1? He’d be insurance if the above stated worst case scenario takes place with Worilds, plus I believe his cap # would be less if we held onto him that long.

  • SteelersDepot

    Well, I think it would make sense to hold onto Woodley until there is some sort of clarity with the Worilds situation. Even if they cut him right now with the June 1st designation, they wouldn’t save any cap dollars until after June 1st, so they why cut him now?

  • Steelers12328882

    It’s a $1.701 mil gamble. That’s really not that much at all. If they’re willing to take a $9.754 mil hit with the transition tag, then why not just take the extra step, to assure that no other team will even consider touching Worilds, and franchise him?

  • Addison

    Say he stays a steelers in 2014, but they can’t get a deal done for 2015. Do the steelers get compensation 2016?

  • SteelersDepot

    Well, they could tag him again next offseason and go through the process all over again if he produces. If he doesn’t produce, you let him walk off via free agency and settle for whatever compensatory pick he might bring.

  • Alex Redfield

    I believe free agency ends before the June 1st date that everyone is talking about for Woodley. If we do in fact have Worilds under contract for the 2014 season for sure, then it makes perfect sense to not only cut Woodley, but to do so ASAP. The cap hit would go UP in 2014 (to the tune of 580k, which is almost nothing), but would save us 14mil in 2015 and 12mil in 2016. Now if we June 1st cut him, we save 5.5mil in 2014, but are still on the hook for 8.5mil in dead money in 2015. Basically, if we can afford the extra 580k (without needing the 5.5mil June 1 scenario to keep us in cap compliance) then you absolutely do it. We just can’t allow Woodley to make that kind of money to ride the bench. That is bad business.

    Also, we can use part of that 14mil in 2015 and 12mil in 2016 to sign the likes of Heyward, C. Allen, and even Pouncey to long term deals. When Troy comes off our books in 2015 we will FINALLY be out of salary cap hell. Finally. The ball can only start rolling when Worilds is signed (hopefully to a long term deal), and Woodley is gone.

  • METAL_HAMMER

    I don’t think any team out there will offer Worilds that much. Although he came on pretty strong last season, I still don’t think he’s proven himself to be an NFL linebacker who can be explosive enough off the edge to be worth that kind of cash just yet. Steelers will retain him and Woodley is gone.

  • SteelersDepot

    July 22nd is the last day transition tag players can be signed.

  • Matt Manzo

    Maybe they’re doing him a favor? If he can make more somewhere else, they give him that chance? I don’t know.
    That’s a ? for Dave.
    Why Transition instead of Franchise?

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Tell me if I wrong about this, cause some of these things I must admit I am not totally clear on.

    1. Any team can sign him, but this shows the player you really want him back.
    2. The contract with another team doesn’t have to be that cap number, it just would be unlikely that it would be lower if the team actually wants to get him.
    3. The Steelers have the right to match any offer.
    4. The Steelers have the right to generate a long-term contract.
    5. The long-term contract doesn’t necessarily have to have the above cap hit in the first year
    6. If no other contract is signed, either with us or someone else, that contract kicks in automatically at some point.

  • Addison

    That’s what I was thinking. Maybe get a guy in the draft they like and not even bother next year. Thanks

  • Betz Smiff

    Who cares what they actually pay Woodley in 2014? Cap # is what matters, I don’t give a rat’s rear end about the Rooney’s actual dollars

  • Alex Redfield

    Thank you for the clarification. Here’s to hoping we can get a long term deal done before July 1st haha

  • Alex Redfield

    What do you think Woodley’s cap hit is this year? All of my numbers above had to do with the cap hit. Actually the main point of the post was that it saves us so much cap room to cut him before the June 1 deadline. Cap hit for Woodley under his current contract – 2014: 13.59mil 2015: 14.09mil 2016: 11.99mil.

    Pre-June 1 cut – 2014: 14.17mil 2015: 0$ 2016:0$

    Post-June 1 cut – 2014: 8.01mil 2015: 8.58mil 2016: 0$

    All of these numbers are in terms of cap hit. Personally I like those zeros in the Pre-June 1 cut column.

  • RyanW

    Because by doing the transition you let another team set the market value for him. Say they think hes worth 7 mil a year and he signs an offer sheet at 5 mil a year then right there the steelers save an avg of 2 mil a year. If a team offers him a ridiculous amount then all they have to do is say bye and they avoided a possibly long dramatic hold out and are free to move on.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Even I have a hard time believing its a good-bye to Woodley. I think with Worilds, its mainly testing the market, with the FO in driver seat pulling up in dark alleys to find themselves some hoo- you get the point. It never hurt to try and check out the price, its a lose-lose situation for Worilds- either he’d get exposed for his true value which give the FO upper-hand OR a crappy team made a lucurious offer, Steelers refuses to match…

    The salary cap increase has helped a lot. Heath took a pay-cut, Ike will be next. Antonio Brown will have a reconstruction, only elephants in the room are Woodley and Big Ben. I believe they have a big plan with Big Ben, it makes no sense to cut Woodley and have his salary hit toward 2015 cap (the post-june 1st designation) we just got to squeeze the most out of Woodley. Only notion I see right now is that Colbert is ready to win again, he’s not ready to rebuild.

  • Brian Tollini

    Am I correct in saying that if we were to cut Woodley now, his cap # this year would actually go up and the true savings would be in 2015 & 2016?

  • 243546

    Teams usually try to get off to a fast start in free agency, so they can ensure that they get their guy. The transition tag means that a team has to wait a week to find out if they actually have Worilds under contract, which is time that could be spent acquiring other free agents. At the very least, the tag reduces the number of teams that will pursue Worilds.

    Also, maybe Colbert has an ulterior motive? Until Worilds signs his transition tag, the Steelers can pull it at any time. The Steelers have almost $10M counting towards the cap, that isn’t associated with a player who is currently on the roster. That’s cap space that could be used to sign a top tier free agent. Does anyone think the Steelers are going to sit around idle while Worilds meets with other teams? Or, will they kick the tires on some other free agents, with the hopes of finding another player(s) that they would rather commit that cap space too? All they would need to do is pull the transition tag, and that cap space becomes available to use on another player. Would the Steelers pass on a guy like Jarius Byrd, TJ Ward, or Jared Veldheer, just because they are waiting to for Worilds to finish his walk through free agency land?

  • steelster

    We will always have cap problems because of big ben

  • steelster

    I could see the raiders going after worilds, they always overpay.

  • Thomas Rancy

    Do you think the steelers would trade lamarr woodley? maybe durin the draft

  • SteelersDepot

    Nobody is going to trade for that contract. Would you based on his injury history?

  • RedCarpetDefense

    Well there’s a fella down there in Dallas who when given the proper motivation has been known for some head scratching maneuvers ever’ now an’ then…I, I uh just couldn’t resist poking some fun at Jerruh.

  • kakello34

    If Al Davis were still alive, they could probably talk the Raiders into giving a 1st round pick for Woodley.

  • joed32

    So pre June 1 the total cap space is 14 mil and post June 1, when they know if Worilds will be staying, the total cap space is 16.5 mil?

  • steeltown

    As far as I know that is all correct, except that even after July 22nd when Worilds is off the market the Steelers can still work out a long term deal up until the 10th week of the season, but as we all know if they don’t get a deal done by the start of the season it probably wont occur till next yr

  • METAL_HAMMER

    The players know it’s about the cash, but in a way, this transitional situation also let’s the Steelers know how much he wants to stay and it let’s him know how much the Steelers want to keep him. He’s simply not worth all that money at this point in his career. He just hasn’t had enough playing time to show what he’s really capable of on the field. He’ll finally get his chance in the 2014 season.