If a Martian came down from, presumably, Mars, learned the English language and asked only one thing, to learn and understand NFL level football, he'd start with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Upon doing that, he'd watch this season's game, and maybe No. 56, LaMarr Woodley, stands out. In that, he'd see Woodley is a good player, but he'd invariably ask why he isn't out there all the time.
"He was injured in these games, so he couldn't play," we'd respond. "Then he was injured to the point the team said he wouldn't play for the last two games of the season, either."
The Martian would probably ask about his salary, specifically, how much he makes.
"A lot," we'd say, grimacing while we say it.
"Does he make more than 93?"
"Yes, but 93 (Jason Worilds) can play for whatever team he wants next year, unless the Steelers offer him the amount of money he would want."
"Why wouldn't they do that?"
"Well, you see, the Steelers signed 56 to a big contract a few years ago, and all teams have to keep the salaries of each player under a certain amount. If they sign 93 to a big contract too. It's really difficult to have both players signed to big contracts, and that gets harder when you add in a third player at that position, one they chose with their first draft pick last year."
"To summarize with my Martian logic, the Steelers have 56 making the most money, but playing the least. They have 93, who's been very productive, but he can leave the team after this season, and you have 95, who's young and carries the reputation of being a talented but developing player."
"I'd say that's fairly accurate."
"So why not cut 56, sign 93 and play him along with 95?"
"Cutting 56 would mean the team has to account for a large portion of what they've already paid him."
"But if he doesn't play, what difference does it make?"
We'd hit a wall at that point. That same wall is the one the Steelers front office is likely banging its collective head against right now. With Woodley placed on injured reserve, marking yet another season in which Woodley has failed to play all or close to all of the Steelers' games in the last three seasons.
His cap figure is significant, but there's some logic to, Martian or otherwise, the notion of simply cutting their losses and moving on. Dead money or cap money being used to represent a player who doesn't play, the question comes down to how much the Steelers would value the difference between that figure for Woodley, and what they'd need to spend to sign Worilds.
Not that Worilds has had a run of heath, either. This is his first season without an injury big enough to keep him from seeing the field.
However this situation gets sliced, the Steelers are going to be taking an expensive risk this offseason. Cutting Woodley as a June 1 designation would give them cap space for this upcoming year, but would count quite a bit for 2015.
At the pace Woodley is on, though, it's not even close to a certainty he'll be healthy enough to play that year anyway. So one way or another, the Steelers are going to get burned by the contract they gave him before the 2011 season.
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