Now That Worilds Has Accepted His Transition Tag, Woodley Watch Takes Center Stage

Now that Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds has reportedly accepted his $9.754 million transition tag, the next step is to get a long-term deal hammered out with him that should greatly reduce his 2014 salary cap charge. Now that it’s virtually guaranteed that the former second-round draft will be in Pittsburgh for at least one more season, our attention will turn to fellow linebacker LaMarr Woodley and his status.

Woodley is scheduled to earn a base salary of $8 million in 2014 and carries a salary cap charge of $13.59 million. While they could release him outright without any post June 1 designation, doing so would not clear any cap space in 2014 and in fact, it would cost the Steelers an additional $580,000 in cap space by going that route. The only benefit achieved by going that route would be that there would be no dead money on the books in 2015.

The other route the Steelers can take with Woodley, if they do indeed decide to release him, is for them to designate him a post June1 release. Doing so would eventually clear $8 million in salary cap space come June, but would result in the team incurring an $8.58 million dead money charge in 2015.

The team could of course ask Woodley to drop his 2014 salary or turn a lot of his base into a not likely to be earned incentive, but you really have to wonder if he would be willing to do that to avoid being released. With Worilds and Washington Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo both now off the free agent market, Woodley would be the top, yet unhealthy, dog on the free agent market as far as the outside linebacker position goes should he be released. While he likely would have a hard time finding a team willing to pay him $8 million for one season, there might be a team willing to pay him $4-$5 million to show he can stay healthy and produce.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said a few weeks ago that they could keep both Woodley and Worilds this season if they wanted to. He did, however, also say that Woodley’s injury history is of some concern being as the linebacker has missed 14 games due to various injuries since 2011.

Unless Colbert has another surprise up his sleeve, I think the general consensus at this point is that Woodley will be released at some point and that he will be designated a post June 1 release when and if that happens. Of course none of envisioned Worilds receiving the transition tag from Colbert, either.

Woodley watch is on.