ARLINGTON TX - FEBRUARY 06: LaMarr Woodley #56 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up prior to their game against the Green Bay Packers during Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6 2011 in Arlington Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
A quick post here about news from late Wednesday night on the NFL free agency front. The Kansas City Chiefs locked up outside linebacker Tamba Hali to a five-year, $60 million dollar deal that includes $35 million in guaranteed money.
Tamba who? You're not alone.
Of course I know who Hali is after the 2010 season, and had noted his ability on more than one occasion since the former 2006 first rounder joined the Chiefs back in 2006. He made the successful transition from the Chiefs 4-3 defense during the Herm Edwards regime to the 3-4 that has been installed by Romeo Crennell in '09 and '10. Hali's sack totals have climbed since being converted to a pass-rushing outside linebacker in '09. He had 8.5 QB takedowns during KC's 4-12 season in '09; and his 14.5 sacks last season led all AFC players.
Hall has only once finished a season with fewer than 7.5 sacks ('08, 3 sacks), and he's missed all of one game since '06, having started 79 of the Chiefs' 80 regular season games since his rookie year. Impressive stuff, no doubt, but that's an awful lot of money to pay an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. James Harrison, for comparison's sake, inked a six-year $51 million dollar deal in '09 that included roughly $20 million in guaranteed bonuses.
Interestingly enough, like LaMarr Woodley, Hali had been designated as the Chiefs' franchise tag player prior to the lockout. Like the Steelers, the Chiefs hoped to free up cap space by re-signing the extremely affable and popular Hali to a long-term deal rather than paying him the average of the top five highest paid OLB's in '11.
I will elaborate further on the salary cap challenges still facing the Steelers as they race to get under the $120 million dollar cap by Friday morning, but basically the Chiefs aren't in the same position as Pittsburgh -- either in '11 or in the early projections for '12. More on that later.
The bottom line is this: unless Woodleys take some sort of hometown 'discount' to remain in Pittsburgh, I can't see the Steelers committing that kind of money to Woodley, even if he is undeniably a beast that you definitely want in your corner. $35 million in guaranteed money is just too much. And frankly, Woodley might be able to command more than that considering he's a few years younger and has starred on an elite defensive unit each year since entering the league in 2007.