The Steelers front office pulled the trigger on what we’ve been speculating on since the season ended, designating Outside Linebacker Lamarr Woodley as the teams 2011 Franchise player. The only other possible candidate would have been Ike Taylor, who is also a free agent or would be under normal CBA circumstances.
Tagging Woodley allows the Steelers to focus their efforts on signing Taylor and others who are slated to become free agents. Keep in mind that unless a CBA deal is reached before the March deadline, no player can sign with another team regardless of their status. Either way the Steelers have ensured themselves the extra time needed to get a big time deal done for Woodley. As part of the Franchise Tag designation he will receive a one-year contract at the average of the five highest-paid players at the player’s position in 2010, or 120 percent of the player’s 2010 salary, whichever is greater. Either way going from a base salary of $550,000 in 2010 to around 10 million is quite a payday. The Steelers though and Woodley both want to work out a long term deal that is more cap friendly (assuming there is a cap at some point). By doing so they can spread out large chunks of a multi-year deal over the life of the contract by using prorated signing bonuses. They can also tear up that franchise tag once a long term deal is signed; thus freeing it up to use in the future if need be.
Wood is the perfect compliment to fellow LB James Harrison. Teams can no longer just double team Harrison and expect to control Woodley without additional help. Either player is more than capable of getting after the quarterback, and since the Steelers defense is predicated on top Linebacker play, this move made sense in every direction.
Woodley, a five-year veteran, has posted double-digit sack totals in each of his three seasons as a starter (2008-10), becoming one of only two players in team history to record at least 10 sacks in three straight seasons. His 39 sacks in his first four seasons with the Steelers is a team record.
Named to the 2010 Pro Bowl, Woodley is the only player in NFL history to post at least one sack in six consecutive postseason games. Woodley has 11 sacks in seven postseason games, including an NFL-record two sacks in each of his first four playoff contests. Woodley finished the 2010 season having registered 10 sacks, two interceptions (one returned for a TD), three forced fumbles and two recovered fumbles.