Monday, February 24, 2014

With Free Agency Looming, The Worilds His Oyster

Pittsburgh Steelers free agent outside linebacker Jason Worilds would like to stay in the the Steel City. The Steelers would like Worilds to stay. Done deal, right?

"If the circumstances are right, for sure," Worilds told ESPN approximately a month ago. "They haven't been right for me in the past."

Ok, well what circumstances?

"I wouldn't want to fall back into (not starting) again. I've just been patient and (am waiting to) see how the Steelers view me," Worilds further said.

In that case, let's just lay this one out there: assure Worilds his starting spot and re-sign him. This needs to be GM Kevin Colbert's main priority

Worilds says he is open to re-signing with the team before the start of free agency on March 11th, as long as he is a starter. This is by no means an outlandish request, either.

He is after all a former second-round draft pick who is entering his fifth season. He sat behind James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley his first three years, and also endured some (hamstring and wrist) injuries that kept him out of starting opportunities as well (opportunities inauspiciously filled by Lawrence Timmons and Chris Carter). So his wanting a sense of security is completely expected.

Once Worilds had enough playing time to finally prove himself and gain invaluable experience, he made the left outside linebacker spot his own.

So much so that when Woodley came back from yet another injury, he was moved to the right side. Then when Jarvis Jones was subbed into the game, Woodley came off the field instead of Worilds.

Worilds' second-half performance this past season was no fluke, either. Some players just need a little extra time to have it all click. Something along the lines of Keenan Lewis the year before. Success builds confidence. He had put up similar numbers in even less time on the field, and is now increasing his repoitore of moves. 

Worilds finished the season with eight sacks - seven of which coming in his final eight games of the year. He also had 16 of his 21 quarterback hurries, and 20 of his league-leading 21 quarterback hits in that same span. He also recorded 63 tackles and two forced fumbles in his 15 games and 11 starts. Very good numbers for a 3-4 outside linebacker.

The future is now, and his is a brighter one than Woodley's at this point. Worilds is just 25 years old and should only get better.

The problem is that other know all of this as well

Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net wrote Monday morning that "at least a dozen teams" are interested in Worilds. He says that signing Worilds is a near impossibility because of the problems with Woodley's contract.

"LaMarr Woodley’s contract (is) likely to make re-signing Jason Worilds very difficult if not impossible. I’m told at least at least a dozen teams here at the combine have expressed great interest in Worilds if he hits free agency." - http://www.draftinsider.net/blog/?p=9449

Woodley, who will be 30 in early November, suffers from chronic, repetitive soft tissue injuries. Injuries that, in the name of business and for the sake of the team, all but require him to be cut. Unless he takes a pay cut (not likely), he is likely to be cut.

Doing so after June 1st would be a savings of $8 million over the next two years each. But, per Ed Bouchette, cutting him now would be "a significant cap savings -- a total of $25.5 million (his salaries) in both real money and cap savings over three seasons with none of it counting after this one. - http://t.co/Gl54s0WLLJ

But, once again, what has to be remembered is that Worilds wants to stay. So, if someone does make him a bigger offer, would he want to uproot and re-learn?

Possibly not per Steelers Digest's Bob Labriola. He responded to a similar question a couple of weeks ago on his Twitter (@BobLabriola) account by saying, "Not so sure Worilds even wants to leave. A competitive offer can get it done. It doesn't have to be the most $$$."

Now that the NFL Salary Cap has been projected even higher at $132 million, with the definitive word coming as of the owner's meetings in March, the Steelers now have more room to make something happen.

Plus, the Steelers have approximately $1.35 million left over from 2013 that they can use. So the Steelers' adjusted Cap at this point, assuming these projections are accurate, is $133.35 million. That puts them almost even as far as the Rule of 51 is concerned, being only about $2 million over at that point minus dead monies.

Though Colbert has stated that the Steelers won't be using them, the Franchise Tag, which would be around $10M, might be to their advantage as it would give them time to get a long-term deal done and then remove the tag. This would be done ONLY as a last resort, though. They've done it before, both with the Transition and Franchise Tags, and could do it again here.

If not, if he's allowed to test the free agent waters, one of those 12 teams who've expressed interest in him will definitely overpay (as someone always does) an amount the Steelers match, and then the Worilds would be Jason's oyster.