Jason Worilds contract: How to handle the Steelers' emerging pass rusher

Matt Sullivan

Worilds is a free agent this offseason, and his play of late will no doubt up his price tag a bit. He will attract other suitors, and his situation likely won't be much different than it was for former Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis. Still, retaining Worilds on a mid-level deal would be a wise move for Pittsburgh.

Maybe I'm the only one who did this, but I envisioned the agent of Jason Worilds seeing him in the locker room after the game. They connect emotionally for a moment, then share a cathartic hug, tears streaming out of their eyes.

Jason Worilds made himself some money in Pittsburgh's 27-11 victory over the Cleveland Browns. The question is, how much and who's paying? Pittsburgh likely wanted to keep Worilds, as most teams do with a former second round draft pick who's contributes frequently. I would expect the situation to be very similar to that of Keenan Lewis in 2013; they want him at a certain price point, and if he's getting more than that somewhere else, they'll wish him the best. But he absolutely has a place with the Steelers, and considering the injury history of LaMarr Woodley (and his own, for that matter), that price may be somewhat flexible.

It would make sense to get Worilds signed to something similar to what the Steelers did with James Harrison in 2006 - four years, $5.5 million. It's tough to let Worilds go, and it's not in the team's best interest to have little depth at the position. This is not to suggest Worilds should be paid in the range of a high-end starting outside linebacker, and while he may get more money on the open market, this is the team that developed him, and it's a team that has to look long and hard at the deal it gave Woodley a six-year, $61 million contract in 2011.

The contract itself isn't what limits the Steelers in the future. It's the restructures he's gotten. He has the second-highest dead money total in 2014 at $19.76 million, and $14.2 million in 2015.

Woodley's not going anywhere for a while. But Woodley, when he was playing, had games not far from what Worilds has done over the last two. In terms of pressure stats - quarterback sacks, hits and hurries - per pass rush, Woodley is among the most effective pass rushers in the league.

Here's the main thing, though. Most will point to the side of the field from where either are rushing. Perhaps there's something to be said for that - no one will argue Joe Thomas is a better tackle than Mitchell Schwartz. While Woodley has mentioned he'd be happy to switch sides if Worilds is more comfortable on the defensive left. Don't buy that. Woodley is the big money man, and there are far too many teams with better pass protectors on their left than their right. It's not just Cleveland with a huge imbalance between the two positions.

Worilds' role in the future can be to back up Woodley and Jones, and his presence will give LeBeau a few options in his scheme. It's a good role for him to play, considering he's had more success in two games than nearly his entire career to this point.

Hopefully a deal can be worked out, but consider it very similar to Lewis's situation last year.

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