Lamarr Woodley is set to earn 8 million in salary this year and his cap hit is expected to be 14.5 million
Lamarr Woodley is the highest paid defensive player in the history of the steelers franchise. Nobody is saying he didn't rightfully earn his contract. He had 3 straight seasons with double digit sacks a pro bowl berth and set an NFL record by recording atleast 1 sack in 7 straight playoff games including 4 straight games with at least 2 sacks. But that was 3 years ago and the steelers have fallen off from where they were. This is a what have you done lately for me league and since signing his contract woodley has missed 14 games in the last 3 seasons due to soft tissue problems. One may even argue his hamstring injury cost him a shot a DPOY in 2011 (9 sacks in the 1st 7 games)
One suggestion many people bring up is just to cut him and alot of people bring up the fact that it should be done like willie colon and cut him after June 1st. By doing that they would not owe him his 8 million dollar salary for 2014 and would count 5.56 mil against the cap in 2014 and an additional 8.98 million against the cap for 2015. If they cut him anytime before june 1st he would cost 14.57 million. Whenever they do it he would still end up costing them the same amount. Would you rather have a massive cap hit this year and that be the end of it or have it spread out over 2 years and still take the same hit at 14.57 million?
The other option of course is to keep him. This is what I am for and i will explain why. He would have to take a significant pay cut or he could do something similar to what terrell suggs just did, although i am not quite sure how that would work out. Suggs had 1 year left on his deal upon signing his new contract and woodley still has 3 left. If they kept him he would have a 13.59 million dollar cap hit for 2014, a 14 million dollar cap hit for 2015 and a 12 million dollar cap hit for 2016 should he play that long. I am not suggesting however they keep him till 2016, but i believe that they are too inexperienced and not yet effective to justify releasing woodley IMO. Worilds, Jones and Carter have a combined 8 years of experience in the NFL compared to woodleys 7. Neither Worilds, Jones or Carter has gone a whole season as a starting OLB and played in all 16 games like woodley has done and Worilds was worn down by the seasons end and was inactive for that week 17 game. Everyone talks about woodley's injury history but worilds has also been nicked up as well. He had a hamstring and wrist injury that kept him sidelined for a few games in the 2011 and 2012 seasons respectively. Jarvis Jones, for all the talent he has is simply not ready to become a 3 down OLB like James Harrison was. Greig Clawson made a very good point in the comment section in a recent article " Woodley and Worilds will be the starting OLB’s, and JJ will take over Troy’s role in the quarters sub-package, as well as take some snaps away from Woodley in order to help reduce Woodley’s snap count as a way of trying to keep him healthy for the entire season." Worilds won't stay unless he is going to be a starter. I like the idea of jones spelling woodley on occasions so he can survive an entire season. Some extra rest in addition to a good training regimen might be able to keep woodley active all 16 games. Jarvis Jones would best be utilized how Aldon Smith was his rookie year as a situational pass rusher. I say it will be time to release woodley once Jones develops and can be a 3 down linebacker, however until then it would be in the steelers best interest to find a way to keep Woodley.
Depth is another issue as well. In 2011 the both Harrison and Woodley were inactive at the same time and had to move lawrence timmons outside due to the lack of depth. By cutting woodley you are left with 3 guys for 2 positions. What happens if worilds and jones both get hurt? Who is there to back them up? The steelers don't have the luxury of moving timmons outside like they did 2 years ago, at least I dont think so. You have to prepare for things like this to happen and having 3 players for 2 positions does not sound like they would be well prepared for something unfortunate.
The steelers also finished with their lowest sack total in 23 years. OLBs are the guys who get the most sacks in this scheme and if they are banking on Jones or Carter to have a career year next year, they will be disappointed. Woodley is still an effective player when healthy. He graded out as a 10.8 on PFF which was good for 10th out of a possible 42 3-4 OLBs. I understand its a big if, however a new training regimen could keep him healthy next year. Did anyone predict Troy would be in on every snap this year?
I just think it would be in the Steelers best interest to find a way to keep Woodley. They will be paper thin at OLB by cutting him and would be fools to think that the 3 guys behind woodley on the depth chart will be wreaking havoc in the backfield, not to mention that woodley can hold up at the point of attack on running plays as well. I understand it is tough financially, but I think there are too many cons that would come with releasing him whether it be before or after June 1st