Woodley now has been franchised, which means he gets the average of the top 5 players salary at his position. Right around 10 million or so at this point. In 2009, James Harrison was rewarded with a new deal worth over 51 million. Following his 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors it was a no brainer to get him signed long term, virtually ensuring he will finish his career in a Steeler uniform.
The Steelers can lock Woodley into a long term deal and tear up that franchise tag if they want. Doing so would make the deal much more cap friendly by using signing bonuses and stretching out the money over many years. That would be the logical decision and one that the Steelers will most likely use. However there is an X factor named Lawrence Timmons. In 2012, Timmons will become a free agent also and the Steelers will have some decisions to make. If they sign Woodley to a big deal, probably similar to Harrison’s numbers, will they be inclined to give Timmons the same type of money? The Rooney’s aren’t afraid to break the bank on their own players, but traditionally do not do so with free agents from the outside. Giving Woodley a long term deal will allow them to have that franchise tag available for 2012 when Timmons will be up for more money. Since the Steeler defense is built around the Linebackers, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. In a 34 defense if you don’t have a top flight linebacking corp, you don’t much much of a defense. Locking up 3 of them would ensure the continued success in the future but it will be costly. Potentially they could be talking about combined contract numbers of well over 120 million by 2012 for all 3. Huge numbers for anyone to fathom but considering how well these guys play, if the Steelers didn’t pay it somebody else would.
Timmons took a big step this year and really came into his own becoming a leader on the team. He can drop back into pass coverage because his speed and size allows him that ability and Lebeau has the flexibility to use him in multiple ways. He would most certainly be a popular commodity if the were to hit the open market. Colbert and company would be wise to keep him as far from the outside NFL world as possible but again it’s all a numbers game. Today’s NFL requires that more money be spent on players and that will continue to be the trend.
Another angle is Jason Worilds, sooner or later the Steelers will need to see how well he can play. A tough, mean spirited, young player, Worilds has yet to see significant playing time but in today’s NFL you’re only a play away from starting. He has shown promise and good pass rush skills in limited action, and had a real solid training camp in 2010. If Wood is signed long term, will they be able to keep Worilds happy when his deal is up or will he want to leave? You must have depth at every position and the Steelers would be counting on Worilds to become a dominant player if and when he’s called upon. Many factors are involved here so we can’t jump the gun too much but still it’s something to keep in mind for the future.
It’s interesting to think about, and remember all this talk about the future is assuming that a new CBA will get worked out at some point. Franchise tags, transitional tags, and the salary cap are all worked out in the deal so nobody knows for sure what will happen until the 2 sides can agree.
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