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Old 03-04-2014, 02:05 PM   #1
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Default Ed: What Worilds Deal Means

What Worilds Deal Means

By Ed Bouchette
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Good morning,

The Steelers traded one gamble for another when they gave linebacker Jason Worilds their transition tag. They went from gambling they would lose him, to gambling they can afford him.

But it also opens up a way for them to release LaMarr Woodley if they so choose. We will get to that below.

With a one-year salary of $9,754,000 on the books for Worilds, the Steelers salary cap for their top 51 player contracts is now estimated to be $144 million and change (thanks to Sportrac.com and OverTheCap.com for many of these figures). Each teamís salary cap has been set at $133 million but teams also can carry over unused cap from last season and for the Steelers that was $1.4 million.

So, they are roughly $10 million over the salary cap on their top 51 contracts, which is all that counts in the offseason. Including all of their players under contract, plus the transition number on Worilds, for 2014, they are about $14 million over the cap for the entire roster. But they only have to be in compliance in the offseason with the top 51. They have until the start of the 2014 regular season to get all of their players under the cap.

So, right now, they must find another $10 million to lop off their salary cap and that wonít be hard.

As we noted, they are working on a restructuring of Heath Millerís contract, which can only mean they are trying to sign him to an extension. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported yesterday that the deal was done; our sources as of Monday evening say not quite.

There is no way Millerís agent, Tom Condon, is going to take a one-year reduction in his clientís $6 million base salary without an extension. So they have to be working on an extension that would allow them to reduce his 2014 salary cap hit by reducing his salary and giving him a signing bonus. Bonuses are pro-rated over the life of the contract. Say Miller would take a $1 million salary this year and the Steelers would give him a $9 million bonus spread over, say, three years. That bonus would count $3 million per year, so it would reduce his cap by $2 million this year ($3 million pro-rated bonus plus $1 million salary equals $4 million, replacing his $6 million salary now on the books). Thatís not much, but itís a start.

By Worilds getting the big number, it does not bode well for Ike Taylor one way or another. Taylor is scheduled to make $7 million in this the final year of his contract. Heís not going to get that. They could release him, of course, and save $7 million. But no matter how you think he played last season, they have no depth at cornerback. They could ask him to take $2-$3 million and shave their cap by another $4-5 million. Letís say Taylor takes the $3 million salary and Miller gets the contract extension I suggested above (merely pulled out of a hat, by the way, with no knowledge of their negotiations with Condon).

Those two things would create $6 million in cap space. Cut tackle Levi Brown and his $6.25 million due this season and thatís $12.25 million. Bang, they are under the cap for next Tuesday before they even get to some of the more difficult decisions.

Among those decisions is what to do with Troy Polamaluís $8,250,000 salary in his final year (ask him to take a cut? Extend?) and whether to restructure Lawrence Timmons, Ben Roethlisberger (or extend) and Antonio Brown.

Also, they can reduce Jason Worilds current salary cap number of more than $9 million by signing him to a long-term deal. If they, say, give him a $24 million signing bonus on a six-year, $60 million deal, they could give him a $2 million salary this year (with guarantees for a few years) and still reduce his cap by $2-3 million from where it is now for 2014.

There is a lot of room to work there with all of that..

As for Woodley, he counts $13,590,000 against their salary cap this year, including an $8 million salary. If they cut him now, because of the cap rules, all of his pro-rated bonus money would count now. Iíve done the math before, he would count $14.17 million if they cut him now (but wipe him off their books for 2015 and 2016).

However, if they cut him after June 1, he would count only $5.59 million this year (and still be on their books for 2015).

So here is what the Steelers can do: Come to terms on a long-term deal with Worilds, essentially giving him what Woodley would have made, an average of $10 million per year. They could do that and actually lower his current salary cap hit for 2014 of $9,754,00, giving them even more savings.

But remember in all of these moves that would create salary cap room: The Steelers are going to need it. They have essentially no halfbacks behind LeíVeon Bell, no defensive ends other than Cameron Heyward under contract, little depth in the secondary and they need to sign Cotchery and/or another wide receiver.

And while they seem to be OK with their starting offensive line, there is little depth there as well.

It should make for a fun March, which already has come in like a lion with the Worilds deal.

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Old 03-04-2014, 03:04 PM   #2
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Default Re: Ed: What Worilds Deal Means

Ron Cook: Getting it right at outside linebacker is crucial for Steelers

March 3, 2014
By Ron Cook / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

For a team that has produced so many great linebackers, Pro Bowl linebackers, even Hall of Fame linebackers, the Steelers suddenly are having a hard time getting it right at, arguably, the most important position in their 3-4 defense.

The Steelers gave LaMarr Woodley a huge, multi-year deal before the 2011 season, and he hasnít come close to living up to it. They drafted Jarvis Jones in the first round of the NFL draft last spring and, though itís way too early to label him a bust, he had a disappointing rookie season. Now, after misjudging the potential of Jason Worilds a year ago, they are facing the possibility of having to overpay to keep him.

Oh, for the days of Jack Ham.

Clearly, the Steelers want to keep Worilds, who, before they put their transition tag on him Monday, was set to become an unrestricted free agent next week. Now, the team has the right to match any offer he receives. If no other club gives him an offer sheet, the Steelers will have to pay him $9,754,000 next season in a one-year deal.

The transition tag makes some sense. It means the Steelers wonít have to bid against themselves for Worilds. Another club will determine his market value, and they can decide if heís worth it. But putting the more restrictive franchise tag on Worilds would have made more sense. It would have cost the Steelers $11,455,000 for him next season, but it virtually would have assured he would stay. No team would give up two first-round draft choices plus the big money to lure him away. The Steelers could then try to do a long-term contract with Worilds.

The Steelers could have avoided this if they had signed Worilds to a multiyear deal before last season. They generally sign the players they want before those players get to free agency. There are exceptions. Ryan Clark re-signed after becoming a free agent. Ike Taylor also re-signed after his previous contract expired. But itís much harder to sign a player after he reaches free agency. The Steelers didnít feel comfortable doing a deal with Worilds last summer based on his limited production ó 10 sacks in 42 games ó in his first three NFL seasons. He responded by becoming their best pass rusher in 2013 with eight sacks in 15 games. Now, the team must pay a lot more to keep him.

No matter what, Worilds is going to get a lot of money based, basically, on one half season of production. If the Steelers give it to him, they have to hope heíll do a better job earning it than Woodley has done. Itís hard to blame the team for signing Woodley to a six-year, $61.5 million contract after the 2010 season. He had 35 sacks in his previous three seasons. Itís also hard to say Woodley got fat and happy right after taking the big deal. He had nine sacks in the first eight games of 2012 and was in the conversation for AFC defensive player of the year. But Woodley has been hurt and unproductive since. Itís fair to think the Steelers would love to get rid of him and his contract.

Thatís why the Steelers put the transition tag on Worilds, to give themselves a fighting chance of keeping him. They can take a big run at him. The NFL salary cap for 2014 increased to $133 million last week, up $10 million from last season. The team also could release Taylor and save $7 million. Taylor had a bad season in 2013 and might be done as a top-notch cornerback.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has said the team could keep Worilds and Woodley, but that seems extremely unlikely. But itís also farfetched to think they could lose Worilds and Woodley. That would leave them with Jones and little else at outside linebacker. They could bring in a free agent to fill the hole, but thatís not their way. They also could take an outside linebacker high in the draft in May, but itís a tough transition from college to their defensive system. Jones was the most recent player to show that. He came out of Georgia as a big-time pass rusher but managed just one sack last season. The team is hoping added strength and a yearís experience will make him better next season.

Everything keeps coming back to Worilds or Woodley. The Steelers need to get it right this time. They need to find a way to re-sign Worilds and then release Woodley.

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Old 03-05-2014, 03:05 AM   #3
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Default Re: Ed: What Worilds Deal Means

Originally Posted by Ron Cook
No matter what, Worilds is going to get a lot of money based, basically, on one half season of production. If the Steelers give it to him, they have to hope heíll do a better job earning it than Woodley has done.
This is the key point. We can't afford to give away the farm based on 7 or 8 good games for a guy who's never been above the line before. This could be the high point of his career.

The black and gold ostrich of rebuilding denial.
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