Jason Worilds contract situation suggests wide gap between both sides

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

It's a high-price game of chicken; the Steelers can offer him a reasonable market value and risk Worilds not being able to back up his performance over the second half of last year, or they can stay put and hope he performs well in 2014. If he does, Worilds jumps from Paul Kruger's market to LaMarr Woodley's.

Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds reportedly turned down a contract offer from the Steelers.

Not surprising.

That offer is still on the table. Could be even less surprising.

He turned it down, most likely, because the Steelers offered him a contract tantamount to a player with injury concerns and a mediocre body of work through his first 56 NFL games.

Worilds would rather view himself as a player who performs consistently like he did the final eight games of the season. That's a brief summation of not just Worilds' current contract situation, but the purpose for the transition tag.

The Steelers will hold their minicamp June 17-19, and by all accounts, Worilds will participate in that camp. Ex-Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace did not, after receiving a $2.5 million one-year contract as a restricted free agent. Worilds will receive $9.75 million this year as the team's transition player. The difference between Wallace's production over his three years with the team surpasses Worilds' production in four years by a huge margin; far more than the $7.25 million difference in their one-year contracts at those respective times.

The only thing wider is the likely gap between what Worilds would sign for right now and what the Steelers should, reasonably, be willing to pay.

There is little to no chance the Steelers ink Worilds to a long-term deal unless that deal looks an awful lot like the one Cleveland gave Paul Kruger before the 2012 season - $20 million guaranteed on a five-year, $40.5 million deal. Worilds is getting $9.75 million this year, exercising his collectively bargained right to hold the Steelers over the barrel for a season while the sides remain open to a long-term extension. Considering Kruger got $6 million in a signing bonus (money that's paid immediately upon signing the contract) and another $6.285 million guaranteed in the form of a roster bonus (something he got when he made the 53-man roster out of training camp last year) after essentially a career defined largely by the production in his last eight games, it stands to reason Worilds wants at least $12.285 million guaranteed this season.

The Steelers cut LaMarr Woodley because of the size of his contract, and he was, game-for-game, much more productive than Worilds. Had Woodley stayed healthy last year, the Steelers probably would have just let Worilds walk in free agency, electing to keep Woodley instead.

It's not a revisionist's world. It's also not one in which those who failed to produce consistently also fail to get paid. Cleveland did it with Kruger, it stands to reason someone will do it with Worilds, if not the Steelers.

While we don't know the details on the alleged standing contract offer for Worilds, comparative logic would suggest Worilds wants something in the ballpark of what Kruger got. The Steelers don't have much statistical evidence to support such a deal, and while that didn't stop the cap-rich Browns, it's not a viable reason to offer him something in that realm.

The problem for the Steelers is they know if Worilds replicates his final eight games throughout the 2014 season, he's well out of range from Kruger's contract and will be stepping into the range of Woodley's deal - five years, $61 million.

That becomes another decision completely. If he can show he can play at the level he did, it'd be a bargain to get him at Kruger's contract. So the Steelers must weigh the risk of Worilds falling short of that mark if they were to offer it. If not, they take a huge cap hit now and risk losing him in free agency next season - with a high-level compensatory pick in 2016 being their only return on a one-year contract that paid close to $10 million.

It's an intense bargaining situation for both sides, but at the very least, Worilds will be at minicamp, looking to prove his worth. It should be noted he pulled out of OTAs with a calf injury.

Woodley had a few of those, didn't he?

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