Over the last three seasons, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley has missed 14 games due to injuries. Prior to the 2011 season, Woodley signed a six-year contract extension that would keep the former Pro Bowl linebacker on the roster through the 2016 season. However, since being injured in the first three seasons since signing his big contract, the Steelers must consider if Woodley is still the player he used to be.
The Steelers could go another route at linebacker by re-signing fourth-year outside linebacker Jason Worilds. Since taking over Woodley’s spot on the defense in 2013, Worilds has been on fire. He has eight sacks which leads the team along with 21 quarterback hurries.
Worilds is in the final season of his rookie contract that he signed after being selected in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Worilds has put together some very productive games in 2013 starting in New England where he registered his first two-sack game of the season. He has recorded five sacks in the last seven games.
Worilds will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season unless the Steelers find a way to get him under contract. Woodley is owed more than $25 million over the next three seasons with over $13 million due in 2014. Is there a way for the Steelers to get Worilds back under contract?
With Woodley and his big cap number, the almost certain answer would be no. If the Steelers were to release Woodley it would result in about $14 million in dead money that the Steelers could do nothing with. Unless Woodley is willing to take a huge pay cut, the Steelers’ only option would be to try and trade him.
How many teams would be interested in a 30-year old outside linebacker whose production and presence on the field has gone down over the last three seasons?
Either way, the Steelers’ top priority in 2014 must be getting Jason Worilds back under contract. He has played the best among the pass rushers by far and has really became a valuable outside linebackers in the 3-4 defense. Letting Worilds walk away would be a big mistake.