Despite Not Drafting An OLB, Steelers Still Have Leverage With Jason Worilds

Several weeks before the 2014 NFL Draft took place, I wrote about Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds and how the team might be best served to treat him the same way they treated former tackle Max Starks back in 2008. Now that the draft is behind us, I really think that might end up being the course of action.

For starters, I was pretty sure that the Steelers would at least themselves give some negotiating leverage with Worilds by drafting at least one outside linebacker. In fact, I was really hoping that they would draft two. However, when the smoke had cleared they didn’t even draft one at all. For you Jordan Zumwalt fans, I consider him an inside linebacker prospect until I see him attempt to play outside at the NFL level.

If Worilds and his agent are smart, they will attempt to use the Steelers lack of depth at the outside linebacker position as a reason to stand their ground during contract negotiations come training camp time. That’s assuming, of course, that there will be negotiations. As I mentioned back in March, Worilds is locked into making $9.754 million in 2014 thanks to him being given the transition tag. If the Steelers can lock him up for several years at an average yearly value of around $7.5 million per season or less, that would probably be fine for them, but I can’t see Worilds settling for that. $9.754 million will buy a lot of groceries for several years if managed correctly.

Has Worilds proved enough to deserve getting a multi-year deal that averages $9 million or more a season? I think most of you would probably say no. If that’s the case, and if Worilds isn’t willing to accept a lot less than his $9.754 million tag per season, the Steelers would probably be best served to keep the carrot dangling out in front of him the way they did with Starks in 2008.

Should Worilds wind up playing better than he did in 2013, the Steelers can just reboot the process all over again next offseason by placing the franchise tag on him. If he doesn’t play well in 2014, then they will have a very different big decision to make next offseason.

Sure, the Steelers possibly stand to gain a little salary cap space this offseason by signing Worilds to a long term deal, but by the looks of things, they’re going to have enough space to get extensions done with a few other players without that being a must. They’re not going to let what they want to get done with other players dictate what they do with Worilds and in reality, he doesn’t have any more leverage than he did before the draft thanks to the franchise tag.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has said in the past that when it comes to free agents, they get to ultimately decide who stays and who goes. That’s not going to change with Worilds just because they didn’t draft another outside linebacker.

Leverage with Worilds? Yes, the Steelers still have more of it.

  • shawn


    I think the options you state above are the exact thing NOT TO DO !!! this is how we have gotten in trouble in the past by losing Keenan … there are really 3 outcomes and i really dont see how dangling a carrot would be beneficial in any of the outcomes

    1. He officially turned the corner and is a legitimate Star with a double digit sack season … – Outcome = he paints us in a corner and extorts a ransom or we lose him …. either way its a loss

    2. He produces a lackluster year that more likely signifies he never really did turn the corner – Outcome = we overpaid this year and we have to look for a future OLB because he isn’t the answer …. again a loss

    Final outcome

    3. He produces a so so year that is roughly on par with last year – Outcome = we have to prob overpay for a decent but not star OLB and we still lose

    As you can see i dont see any positives from waiting out the season …

    You state that he prob doesnt want to sign for less than 9mil/yr … but lets face it … neither side is sure of what they got … he knows as well as we do if he doesnt have a great year or gets injured or a myriad of other things he won’t even get to that 7mil/yr level …. so i think it would be in his best interest to not gamble and take that 7mil year deal that sets him up for life and then some … I am pretty sure the steelers would take that gamble … and if i was in his shoes i sure would have to consider it as well …

    Lets face it … is it really worth turning down a 5 yr deal worth 37 mil to wait out the season and try and get 5yrs for 45+ when the downside is so high … we forget that last Oct this guy was looking at a future of a 1-2/mil yr

  • Paddy

    I’s make him prove his worth, a half season isn’t enough

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Heyward and Allen should be signed to longer term deals now. They would be my priority as they seem to be at least solid players with the potential to be great. Sign them now.

    At some point by next year they will have to think about Ben and Pouncey, O linemen and CB’s. That requires a lot of money.

    Therefore, if Worlds does not want to take a reasonable amount of money then he will be gambling with his future and with no further guarantees beyond this year’s salary. Yes, the Steelers could be screwed again, but that’s part of the business.

    This is what I would ask every player: “Do you wish to win championships? Or are you after money only?” The players should be willing to take a little less to play on a winner. Go get some endorsements to make extra money if you wish.

  • shawn

    We’re already paying him 10 mil yr … how is that making him prove his worth ? we have very little to gain by dangling the carrot … we’d be better off offering him a safe but good offer that both sides benefit from …

    we dont know for sure if he would accept it … but its better than waiting to overpay him after he turns in a 13+ sack season …

    the way i see it is he is a decent player maybe worth 5-7 mil MAX … by n large most of his sacks were over valued agains lesser competition … if he does have a high sack count this year he is not going to be worth the amount he will want … he is nowhere near as good as Woodley was when he was playing well !

  • shawn

    I dont know if thats how the players see it … but i Agree with you 100% and i know if i were playing thats the way i would look at it …

    I mean lets face it … (for example) would your rather play for 7mil/yr for a winning org in a place that you are happy with and know or take the 9/mll a yr and risk your career to losing seasons and a mediocre orginsazion …

    to me its a no brainer, but i guess some guys value every little dollar over the other intangibles !

  • shawn

    I really hope they lockdown Heyward & Allen now … have a feeling if they dont they are likely to lose at least one of them !

  • steeltown

    If he doesn’t take $7-8MIL per then yes they should wait and rehash negotiations next offseason. They should however get C.Allen locked up and either Ben or Heyward as well.

  • dkoy85

    I may be misunderstanding what #2 and #3 mean, but I’m pretty sure that is why you don’t want to sign him to a long term deal this year. On #2 if you get stuck in a 5 year contract with a player who had a fluke 2013 season, then you are overpaying, even if it is $37 million, and your stuck with an under performing player.

    I think that it might be wise to wait out the 2014 season and let Worilds prove himself- unless of course they strike a favorable deal with him.

  • dkoy85

    That’s assuming he would take that money. He may feel like he has the talent to be paid $8+ and not bite on that.

  • Zach

    Great post, shawn. I agree with what you said, but in the end it depends on how much hardball his agent will play, and how much the steelers value him. At this point they should know how good he can get. Worilds wants to stay in Pittsburgh, so he would sign a decent long-term deal if offered. The key point is what is decent for him and his agent, specially in terms of guaranteed money….I see Worilds at this point as a slightly better Paul Kruger, who last year signed for 5yr, 40.5 Mil, 13 million guaranteed (which is now 20 million after Kruger being in the roster), and that’s the problem for us. I think this would be the floor that Worilds agent is shooting for. Are the steelers willing to pay him 5yr, 40 mil/16 mil guaranteed? I’d pay this, if we take into account that a franchise tag next year will be in the 12Mil range, so we would pay 22 Mil for 2 years of Worilds. I’d rather convert this 22 Mil in guaranteed money and sign him longe term.

  • Zach

    the issue is probably the guaranteed money in this 37 Mil..does Worilds wants 16 Mil or 24Mil guaranteed? the rest is pointless if he does not perform.

  • dkoy85

    And if he doesn’t perform next year? By not signing him to a long term deal, they can save 12 mil in 2015 if he doesn’t perform. Is that a risk the Steelers want to take? Do we need another Woodley? I’m not sure- Personally I like Worilds, and think he’s worth Kruger money. But it’s a gamble, and the Steelers don’t gamble often.

  • Zach

    You’re totally right and that may very well happen — it all depends on what each side thinks about his value. But it strikes me that it seems that the Steelers STILL don’t know what they have in him after 4 years! That’s poor talent evaluation and management, as we probably could have extended him before last season for 3-5 Mil/yr (in the end it’s a 10 Mil investment for 2-3 yr), and just this year we’ll pay 10 Mil…

  • Zach

    he wants to be a steelers for life (said that many times), so he would not be looking for money only in e.g. cleveland like Kruger did. After 4 yrs, the steelers SHOULD know what they have in him to pay 5yr, 40 Mil/20 mil guaranteed or not.

  • Richard Clinton

    Good article.

  • Zach

    I agree with his value in theory (5-7 Mil/yr), but Worilds has had very similar impact as Kruger. The problem is that Kruger has been overpaid by Cleveland getting 8 Mil/yr, and Worilds’ agent would look foolish to take less than that.

  • joed32

    I think those are priorities and will get done before they deal with the Worilds extension.

  • Zach

    We have 2 years of Heyward, so there’s little reason to give priority to him over Allen or Pouncey (assuming they wanna keep the 3). Heyward is already established and our DL does not make splash plays, so it’s not like his value will increase a lot after this season if he goes to a pro bowl. In the ideal world, I’d like to see Allen, Pouncey, Heyward, and Worilds re-signed. That would probably make one of the best offseasons that we’ve had in decades.

  • Zach

    Hmmm not sure, it depends how they wanna structure the deals. Perhaps they won’t have enough cap space to do as they would like (even accounting for the 8 Mil coming June 1st from Woodley). Extending Worilds would give us much more flexibility as we would get up to 7 Mil of cap space this year.

  • shawn

    Very true … but he surely has no idea either … u think he would turn down a big offer over 1 mil yr and risk everything … if it were u … would u do it ? I personally think that is a stupid move … but i guess he would be gambling on himself !

    I would rather surely 100% positively get 85% of what i was asking for … then completely risk losing 50% if he turns out a ho hum season !

  • Nolrog

    It’s not only the amount per year, but also the amount guaranteed. If Worilds got, say, 6 per year but a lot more guaranteed then it woudln’t look so foolish.

  • shawn

    I guess what I’m saying is … if they really are high on him and think that he is the future then it makes no sense to wait and pay a higher price after he performs next year …. thats the worst kind of gambling … no ?

    By waiting a year i think it implies that you are not very high on him and dont expect him to do we’ll and thus save the money by not giving him a big contract now … does that make more sense

    so to break it down …. if you think he will under perform you are better off waiting ….. and if you think he will over perform you are better off signing him now …. so i guess thats why i think its counterintuitive to wait and pay him after he has a great season ….. hopefully this response is a little more clear on my thought process ??

  • SteelersDepot

    1. Franchise tag.
    2. Solved by my post.
    3. Solved by my post.

    Basically, Worilds is rented year-to-year

  • Zach

    that’s true, and we could also make it back loaded without guarantees for the last 2 yrs, something like 6, 7, 8, 9, 9 Mil/yr, that would give him 21 mil guaranteed (more than what Kruger got). I’m optimistic that if the steelers want to keep him long term for starting money OLB, he will be signed this offseason since he wanna stay as a Steeler.

  • shawn

    that sure is an expensive rental … my response to dkoy85 i think put my thoughts a little more succinctly … bottom line is i think we screwed up by not gambling on him after that 5 sack season and now we have to pay the price …

    we have to do a better job at diagnosing future stars and solid starters earlier and gamble and sign them earlier & cheaper rather than pay the big price and keep a couple of them while letting the majority go in FA !

  • shawn

    if it were you … wouldnt you rather sign a long term 7mil/yr contract now rather than wait it out and risk not getting any kind of big contract by a poor season or injury ?? Seems like a big risk to me … especially how little proven track record he has … i know i sure wouldnt take that risk …

    I’d take the guaranteed LOTTERY ticket now … doesnt seem like much upside for him to take a wait n see posture !

  • shawn

    those last couple sentences sum it up completely … poor job of talent evaluation cost us dearly !

  • SteelersDepot

    You are forgetting that with the new 2011 CBA that drafted players can’t have their contracts altered until AFTER their third year in the league. Also, being as Worilds was class of 2010, you don’t know he would have taken a measly deal as a non starter.

  • shawn

    Small window for sure … but that would have been a great time to extend him after 2012 (5 sack season) for a modest but not measly sum ( i was thinking 3-5 mil if they thought he was the future)

    going forward … dont u think it is a PERFECT time for us to extend Cam & Cortez … i dont think we can get Cam for a steal … but it probably won’t get any cheaper after this year …. on the other hand if they have faith in ‘Tez i think they can get him for somewhat of a bargain if they do it before the year starts !

  • SteelersDepot

    that’s why I mentioned other extensions in the original post.

  • Mike Frantz

    The whole Worilds thing has been weird. Here is my thinking:

    The Steelers and Worilds agreed on a plan during free agency. That we’d give him transition tag, ditch Woodley, etc. But we wouldn’t have money to sign him to a long-term deal until after Woodleys contract was off the books. Plus, Steelers weren’t sure how the rest of free agency would play out with other signings/restructurings etc. Once Woodley’s contract is off and teh rookies are signed we’ll know pretty much exactly how much cap room we have available this year. That way we can get as much of Worilds contract into 2014 as possible. They’ve already agreed on the paramaters of the deal (number of years and amount of guaranteed money), but the timing of the money and structure (base vs bonus) are yet to be determined since too many unknowns were around at the beginning of free agency.

    That’s my theory for the speed at which Worild’s agreed to transition tag…not even exploring other offers. They’d already got a deal worked out and Worild’s was a total team player letting the Steelers use the extra flexibility to do what they needed with other contracts.

  • joed32

    I thought the 8 million would be plenty but I don’t really know of course. They also could redo Ben if they were in need of cap space.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    It seems pretty straight forward to me.

    He gets about 10 mil for this season and if he thinks he is worth 10 mil per year long term we need to be talking about a possible pro bowl vote this year. I doubt he wants to bet he has a pro bowl season this year. I do think this will generate some discussion.

    I think the 7.5 number can be worth it to both sides depending on guarantee.

    10 would be stupid for the steelers and 5 would be Stupid for worlds. Since he now has a 10 mil guarantee I would think you have to double that to get him to accept the 7.5 number.

    20 mil guaranteed, 8 mil per season on a 5 year deal with 10 mil bonus? I think that’s a good deal for both sides.

  • Superdriller316

    I think the fact that Worilds couldn’t get offers from teams till like the third week of FA and that the Steelers could pull the tag at any time had a lot to do with it.

  • Zach

    They could do it, but that would mortgage our cap for the next 5 years, and we don’t wanna that again. I’m curious to see what will be their first move.

  • Jollyrob68

    PAy him a fair deal and have your linebacker unit locked up for years. Just get it done.

  • RedCarpetDefense

    I am always amused when reading comments about financial terms of salaries, offers, bonuses, etc. what’s discussed and the manner at which it is being discussed. It’s as if it were so nonchalant as using Monopoly money. What recession?

  • Wing t

    Here’s hoping jones goes off and zumwalt shows he can play olb well.

  • Milliken Steeler

    I agree Steel. Why even approach ” Ill gladly pay you for a hamburger on Wednesday” Woodley numbers again, when the guy hasn’t even completed a full season as a starter yet, much less Woodleys stats when he was healthy?

  • DoctorNoah

    Is there really a good solution to this? Were I Worilds, would go for a modest 5-7M a year with a ton guaranteed. If they cut him after two years, he still makes bank. If he plays the free agent game, all it takes is one injury to go from rich to poor. Blink of an eye. As an Orthopaedic surgeon, I see career-ending injuries too often to think anything else…

  • Dan

    So is transition tag salary fully gauranteed? Partial? What if he gets hurt in training camp or week 8?