By now, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley has probably heard about fellow linebacker Jason Worilds being transition tagged and subsequently accepting his one-year offer of $9.754 million with the prospects of that resulting in a long-term deal. If he hasn’t, he should probably get on the internets as soon as possible. So, with Woodley’s future status now taking center stage, what options do the Steelers have with him outside of an outright release?
As I mentioned in my previous post, Woodley is scheduled to earn $8 million in 2014 with no guarantee that he starts. The Steelers simply can’t allow money to be spent that way and that’s why the Michigan product is currently the giant elephant in the room right now. If released outright, regardless of whether or not it is recorded as a post June 1 release, Woodley would have a tough time finding a team willing to pay him $8 million for one season based on his recent injury history.
The Steelers could of course ask Woodley to take a straight pay cut of $4-$5 million in order to stay and prove himself, but the veteran linebacker might decide to see if he could earn that same money elsewhere along with a guarantee he starts. Another option the Steelers could present to him would include him turning around half of the $8 million he is scheduled to earn into a NLTBE (not likely to be earned incentive) based on playing time.
So how would a NLTBE incentive work and be structured? There are several options to that, but here’s one example. $4 million of Woodley’s $8 million salary could be tied to him being on the active game roster every week. I’m not entirely sure how that is written up contractually, but Detroit Lions safety Louis Delmas had something similar tied to his contract in 2013 that kicked in at the end of the season because he played more than 42% of the defensive snaps. In short, Delmas, according to Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com, earned $109,375 for every game that he was on the 46-man roster. In the case of the Woodley example, his incentives could equate to $250,000 for every game he is on the active roster and that would give him the opportunity to earn back the other $4 million.
Now, if the example used above was agreed to by both sides, Woodley’s cap number in 2014 would decrease by $4 million, however, for every game that he earned $250,000 for, the Steelers would be debited that amount against their 2015 salary cap. In other words, Woodley’s currently scheduled cap charge in 2015 could go up as high as $18.09 million. At that point, the Steelers would be back in the same boat they’re in right now, but hopefully with a player that played in all 16 games and registered at least 10 sacks. See the dilemma, here for both sides? Woodley would still be back on the cutting block next offseason, however, he’d have been given the opportunity to increase his free market value.
Do I think Woodley and the Steelers will go the NLTBE route? No, but I also never thought the Steelers would use the transition tag on Worilds, either. In the end, I think Woodley will be asked to take a pay cut or be cut.