Breaking Down The Steelers Decision To Use The Transition Tag On LB Jason Worilds

Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers have decided to place the transition tag on outside linebacker Jason Worilds, we can further break down the decision and look at the overall big picture of things with one week to go until the start of free agency.

First, the transition tag comes with a $9.754 million price tag and it gives the Steelers an opportunity to match any offer sheet that Worilds might sign during free agency. However, if the Steelers choose not to match an offer, they will not receive any compensation for losing him.

A transition tag could result in Worilds staying in Pittsburgh for at least another year unless another team were to either overpay the linebacker, or structure a contract offer sheet in a way that would make it tough for the Steelers to match. A team with a ton of cap space that really wants Worilds, for example, could include a first year roster bonus that would make his first year cap hit tough for the Steelers to match. That first year cap hit, however, would likely have to be bigger than $10 million as the Steelers seem prepared to absorb a one-year, $9.754 million hit already on Worilds. Teams normally like to strike quick during free agency and thus don’t want to miss the boat by waiting several days for another team to decide whether or not they can sign away a player.

The Steelers have use the transition tag in the past before it went out of style as tackle Max Starks was a recipient of a $6.895 million transition tag back in February of 2008. Starks did not sign an offer sheet with another team during the subsequent free agency signing period and played under that one-year deal as a result. Starks was then given the franchise tag in 2009 and ultimately signed a four-year contract later that June.

So does placing the transition tag on Worilds mean that LaMarr Woodley will be cut prior to the start of the new league year? Well, being as there is still an outside chance they could lose Worilds, the Steelers would be wise to keep Woodley until everything is sorted out. Keep in mind that until Worilds is locked up long-term, releasing Woodley could result in the team having neither of them in 2015.

So what does this do to the Steelers current salary cap situation? Well, heading into today they were still roughly $5.7 million over the $133 million number. When you add on the $9.754 million transition tender that Worilds has now received, that puts them roughly $15.454 million over. Now, we are still waiting to hear what happened to the contract of tight end Heath Miller as we don’t know yet whether or not it was an extension or a pay cut. I tend to think it was an extension, but we just don’t know the details at the time this post is being written.

The Steelers are still expected to release tackle Levi Brown over the course of the next week, so when and if that happens, that will clear $6.25 million in cap space. I also still expect the contract of wide receiver Antonio Brown to be restructured to clear up nearly $4 million more in cap space and at this point, linebacker Lawrence Timmons could be back in the picture to have his contract restructured again as well. The two combined would clear nearly $8 million in cap space if done to the full amounts.

In addition to the above, the Steelers still might extend the contract of safety Troy Polamalu to clear some cap space and if cornerback Ike Taylor does not agree to a base salary reduction of around $3 million or more, he could be cut as well. Cutting Taylor outright would clear $7 million in cap space, but would also leave the Steelers with only two experienced cornerbacks in Cortez Allen and William Gay.

On top of everything else, there’s still a chance the Steelers could extend quarterback Ben Roethlisberger between now and the start of the new league year, but Colbert seemed to make it sound like that might wait until later in the summer if it happens at all this offseason.

Needless to say, there will be a lot of news to report between now and the start of free agency.

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • Paddy

    I think Woodley was tagged in 2010 before accepting a new deal. If some team offer him 15 million up front that would be tough to match

  • SteelersDepot

    That was a franchise tag, not a transition tag.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    Who is Worilds agent and have they issued any type of reaction statement?

  • Brian Miller

    Well, at least this gives themselves a chance to sign him and/or match another offer if they choose. If this had not happened then I would think the odds of us signing him in FA was probably 5%, but now, at least we have a fighting chance.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    They don’t get special compensation if he is signed by another team but they do get the normal comp pick don’t they?

  • 20Stoney

    Could another team just put some goofy clause in the contract to make the it prohibitive for the Steelers to match? For instance if Worilds plays more than X amount of games in Pennsylvania, the entire contract becomes guaranteed.

  • steeltown

    The more I think about it the more it makes sense.. forcing a Team to possibly take a 10+MIL cap hit in the first year might take a few Teams out of the running, even ones with a ton of cap space might find that too rich for their blood

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I think we wait to cut woodley until after the draft and just consider that money to be the draft pick budget.

    I still think we do the same with Levi. Why do him a favor of an early release?

    Maybe they both decide to sign team friendly deals to reestablish their value instead of being late season free agents.

  • harding36

    I’m not a fan of this move, at all. $9 million for a player who couldn’t beat out a rookie and has had one half of a good season, which, by the way, ended in another injury. I don’t get it.

  • SteelersDepot

    Poison pills have been outlawed. Roster bonuses in year one are the new poison pill

  • 20Stoney

    I’m not sure how much opportunity he was given to beat out Jones. It kind of seemed like they prematurely handed him the job.

  • steeltown

    Worilds is serviceable ROLB.. it appears he could be a stellar LOLB

  • PA2AK

    I agree here…he was considered a perennial all-pro from day one by a vast majority of the fan base…that seemed to carry over to the powers that be. It’s either start them in year 4 and watch their value price them right onto another team, or start them year 1 and watch them smolder (while Lebeau sits back and smiles with the ‘I told you’ look all over his face).

  • Superdriller316

    I have a bad feeling about this. A team can front load a contract and we can’t match. Then we’ve lost compensation and that’s more than likely a 3rd round comp pick. What’s really funny is that Worilds is someone that most didn’t want drafted in the first place now he’s one that we can’t loose.

  • PA2AK

    The injury complaint has been poked at plenty…can we all come to an agreement that when it comes to health (especially relative to those around him) Jason’s is not a concern.

  • harding36

    I don’t know. JJ looked better in the pre season games than Worilds did, IMO. Keep in mind, even with the sacks, Worilds’ pass rushing efficiency score from Pro Football Focus was terrible — a 2.8. Woodley had a 10.7, I believe. I guess if you think Worilds is a good player, you like the move. I just don’t think he’s very good. And certainly not $9 million for one year good.

  • steeltown

    PFF is not always accurate in all aspects.. he led the entire League in QB hits the 2nd half of the season, consequently when he was named the starter full time

  • steeltown

    Do you like the move?

  • WIINGY

    Even with a roster bonus I can’t see his first year cap hit being more than Kruger’s last year. Should be interesting to see how this plays out.

  • Paddy

    You are correct sir

  • WIINGY

    but if you were Worilds, wouldn’t you just play the year out at $9.7m? I know that the tag can be rescinded, but that would still wouldn’t help the Steelers out at OLB next year.

  • PA2AK

    We’d lose a comp pick this year, but would still get one for 2015 (if i’m not mistaken). I agree with the front-loading, but they would also have to keep it realistic. Is he that much of a value to any other team out there? Who actually has that much cap space…and of those teams (I assume with that much room, you have plenty of spots to fill), who ONLY needs a LOLB in their 3-4 D?

  • WIINGY

    Levi? as in Levi Brown?

  • WIINGY

    Not to mention, that we are officially non players in Free Agency until something happens with him.

  • steeltown

    Yes maybe, but lets say he plays out the year in Pittsburgh, atleast we’ll have a larger sample size and more time to hash out a long term deal if they see fit..

  • WIINGY

    Yeah, but they would have to front load a grip load of cash. How many teams want to throw $10-13 million at Jason Worilds for his first year? hell he would have nothing to play for after year 1. He got 75% of his guaranteed money already.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Yep.

    I haven’t heard a good reason to cut him yet.

  • steeltown

    $6.25MIL reasons

  • cp72

    At the very least it takes at least half of the speculated “dozen” teams interested out of the running. If you are in good shape and have 20 million in cap space you’re not paying Jason Worilds half of that. Smart move.

  • Michael Holtschlag

    Did the steelers set the amount or is it a league formula? I like the move regardless. Get a bigger sample size on worilds as a starter before committing to him longer term.

  • ScottB

    I’m still confused. What happens if say, the Steelers work out a deal with Worilds? How would that impact the cap this year?

  • SteelersDepot

    If they work out a long-term deal, it would replace his transition one-year amount and if done smartly, would significantly lower his 2014 cap hit. However, if Worilds signs an offer sheet with another team and the Steelers match it, they have to stick to the structure of that new deal for at least the first year. Then, if applicable,try to restructure.

  • SteelersDepot
  • Chris S

    Correct. If they had given him the Non-exclusive franchise tag…and another team signed him…they’d have to give up i think 2 first rounders. Transition tag is cheaper…and you dont get immediate picks…but can get comp picks the next year.

  • Chris S

    Outside of the extra few million…is there any other reason they didnt go with the non-exclusive franchise tag? He could still be signed to offer sheets/etc..and they could still match the offer(s)…but they’d get like 2 1st round picks in exchange. The only other reason I could think of is that there would be very limited (if any) teams that would go after him…so they couldnt establish a fair market value? I dont know. I’m fine with the move, pending its results I guess…but am just curious.

  • ScottB

    Thanks. I’m in favor of this, provided they work a deal. I’m glad to know that they aren’t 100% locked in to that cap hit.

  • PA2AK

    if they go Franchise tag…it all but guarantees that he will be with the Steelers at the $10-$11mil (whatever the franchise tag is). No way a team gives Worilds that big of a contract and gives away (2) first round picks. He’s not worth that much and everyone in the game knows it. With this move, there is still a shot that no one goes after him and they are able to work out a long term deal that is more realistic. At the very least, he’s signed away and we get a 3rd round pick next year. (i think all that is correct, but Dave and the guys know better I’m sure!)

  • Melly

    No team would give up 2 first round picks for Worilds. They(Pitt) know this. So by transitioning him they basically save themselves 2 million dollars( if he would sign the tender). 2 million for Pitt is like 20 million for some clubs!!!!!!

  • blackandgoldBullion

    I don’t like it.

    Bad: I’m sure they tried to sign him, it didn’t work, so they are going to try this out for size. Do they want the flippin’ guy or not?

    Good: At least it forces them to either slash players or get them to take cuts. I was hoping they would be proactive in this regard. Wishful thinking.

    Bad: Instead of spending money on guys they really need from their list of 21 free agents, they are currently on the hook for nearly $10 mill to Worlds. And here we were thinking the Steelers were in great shape with the announced $133 mill. new cap. Maybe now they are almost as bad as the bloody Cowboys.

    Good: Maybe Woodley accepts a cut because he does not want to get cut June 1. While their at it the Steelers cut a couple of more guys. Then maybe they can go back to having a little wiggle room. And so many thought this was going to be a fun off season with a few FA signings for a change. I know it may still happen but it is dependent on outside forces, a team coming along and overpaying.

    So much for being proactive like I wanted, the Steelers seem to not know their asses from a hole in the ground right now. It’s like instead of having a plan, let’s just gamble and see what happens.

    All in all: Crap!!!

  • CW

    The team needs to get under the cap before the draft. And right now he’s dead weight.

  • PA2AK

    If no one gives Worilds an offer, aren’t the Steelers in good position?
    If someone DOES give Worilds an offer at that high value, are we any worse off (assuming they offered him a contract that wasn’t high enough for his liking prior to FA kicking in)?

  • Eric MacLaurin

    He’s dead weight because our tackles are so awesome?

  • dgh57

    Now that we have signed Worilds to this Transition tag it’s $15,454M reasons why.

  • HereComesTheCollapse

    I’m sure Worilds agent advised him to wait it out to see what other teams would offer. Why not? It could be worth an extra couple million to the guy just by being patient. We probably would all like to earn a couple more million by just being patient.

  • dgh57

    They have two 2nd round draft picks tied up in Gilbert and Adams and are also younger than L. Brown. Plus they will allow Munchak time to work with them to hone their skills. Beyond them there is no room for L. Brown.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    They have 2 second round picks?

    That’s not how I evaluate players and would never be a reason to limit competition if it was.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    This move scream “we are still contending for playoff” which mean they will draft players that will start, very likely an offensive playmaker.

  • Wes C. Addle

    This is a smart move….like that their being proactive and not sitting around…

  • Steelers12328882

    I don’t think any player enjoys playing under a 1 year contract and chancing a serious injury.

  • Steelers12328882

    Right. Probably as much opportunity as they gave Dwyer to be the backup RB.

  • Steelers12328882

    I didn’t expect this. It proves not only how desperate we are to retain his services, but also our lack of depth at the position. I like the move for sure. Even if we can’t sign him longterm it gives him another year to prove himself, and helps prevent another team from stealing him once free agency starts.

  • dgh57

    Not saying they will use any one criterion in their decision with regards L. Brown but that’s one of them along with the salary cap thing. If they outright cut L. Brown, part of the reason is because they don’t view him as competition else they would cut a deal somehow.

  • Brendon Glad

    I consider it a good sign. The Steelers usually correctly value their own people (health being the wild-card….as in the Woodley, miller, Polamalu contracts looking less ‘of value’ than when signed)…So if the Steelers see Worilds as a $9.5/mil player, then I have to consider that a good thing. Because I, for 1, wasnt sure how the Steelers brass was evaluating Worilds, and wasn’t even sure of my own evaluation of him. I’m still not sure, but this makes me feel better (since I want Woodley to be cut).

  • NW86

    I really don’t understand this one. They just gave Worilds a high starting point for negotiations and forced themselves to do some cuts/restructures to handle the high cap hit. This will also keep them from resigning other free agents, at least in the short term until they work out a multi-year deal. Meanwhile, what did they get for it? The right to match another team’s offer? I would presume Worilds would have given them that chance anyway. Only without the tag, they could play with the structure to give him the same money as the other team was offering, with more of it in signing bonus so the year 1 cap hit is lower. Now, they would have to match the exact structure, so if a team with more cap space wants him, they will simply forego a signing bonus and give him a roster bonus or guaranteed year 1 salary instead, so it all counts against the 2014 cap.
    What do the Steelers really gain from this???

  • WIINGY

    He’s not worthy of $6.25 m salary. Plus he has no dead money so he saves $6.25 m in cap space. He’s a 1st round bust who we got for nothing.

    We could sign him for peanuts after we cut him.

  • CW

    He’s dead weight because he’s never been better in his whole career than Mike Adams is right now at left tackle.

    Besides which there was effectively near zero market for his worthless butt prior to tearing his pectoral muscle last year, so the chances are the Steelers can cut him and resign him for a much lower salary or they can sign a street free agent who can offer nearly as much as Levi Brown has shown over the years as a left tackle.

  • Axe Skot

    I would say that it all speaks to the nature of the contract negotiations thus far, ie. not so good.

  • Axe Skot

    Teams always spread false rumors if it hurts other teams chances to sign their players. I think the negotiations have been upset somewhat by the talk of his worth in free agency. I think the FO doesn’t buy the numbers that are being thrown around and the interest for a guy who hasn’t started a full season. They are hedging their bets, while allowing the market to reveal his worth. If they really thought that he was so valuable, they would have franchised him. I think they have some uncertainty about him going forward, but also they have a real scary lack of depth at OLB so they do have to play ball to some extent. In years past they probably would have just let him walk. They still might with the lack of linebackers out there in free agency.