The decision to move on from LaMarr Woodley was undeniably a difficult one, but it was more difficult sentimentally than it was pragmatically. The Pittsburgh Steelers will be better served in the long run saying goodbye now rather than waiting.
Financial concerns naturally play a large part in that. The Steelers must eat approximately $14 million in dead money left from prorations of salary portions turned into bonuses during multiple restructures.
That much was a given. But getting his base salaries off the books—even though he will still have a cap value next season—was important financially in an effort to move on to the next line of contracts.
It’s also worth mentioning that while the post-June 1 designation of Woodley’s release splits his cap hit over two seasons, whatever salary cap space remains unused from 2013 can be carried over to 2014 anyway.
Perhaps more importantly, it puts Jarvis Jones back in the spotlight, under pressure. And that is exactly where he needs to be.
As the rare 24-year-old rookie, Jones is already behind the curve because he got his start in the league at a later point in his life. He needs to be developed at an accelerated schedule in order for the Steelers to get proper value out of his services.
For those worried about Jones being ‘handed’ a starting job that he never earned, remember that he was already handed a starting job once by the coaching staff. Jason Worilds never earned his starting spot to start the 2013 season either.
I thought we were all against the coaching staff favoring the veteran players by fiat anyway.
Also know that Jones made significant and steady progress throughout his rookie season, culminating in his best game of the year in the season finale, as he showed glimpses of what the coaching staff had seen during practices to make them want to start him in the beginning of the season in the first place.
So instead, he will start the opening game of his second year, as it should be. Keeping him as a reserve rotating with Woodley and Worilds would not be a healthy dynamic for any of the three players, and never worked smoothly when they experimented with it last season either, for that matter.
Consider this: by the time Jones actually reaches free agency at the conclusion of his rookie contract, presumably in March 2018, he will in the season during which he turns 29 years old. By way of comparison, Worilds just turned 26 a week ago. He is not even two years older than Jones.
That’s what makes it so much more important to assure that Jones doesn’t have to go through what Worilds did by spending his first three seasons as an apprentice. He required the playing time to develop into the player that he is now, and so does Jones.
The Steelers are confident and comfortable in the long-term future of the pairing of Worilds and Jones. If they weren’t, they would have found a way to keep Woodley, bloated contract, injury history and all.