Player: Jason Worilds
Position: Outside Linebacker
Experience: 5 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2014 Salary Cap Hit: $9,754,000
2014 Season Breakdown: Jason Worilds entered this season still largely a question mark after playing for four years, sporadically, through injury. On the bright side, he stayed healthy all year, and rarely even came off the field.
On the other hand, his on-field performance was found to be rather inconsistent. At times, he could be found dominating, either as a pass rusher or in the running game, but in other games, he would revert back to his young self, as a college defensive end trying to learn how to transition to a new position and not knowing where he should be lined up.
2014 was the first season in his career in which he had a clearly defined role as the starting left outside linebacker, but that assurance did not lend itself to regular results. While he tied for the team lead with 7.5 sacks by the end of the year—he had eight a year ago, which helped earn him the nearly $10 million transition tag—his impact as a pass rusher was not a consistent presence down the stretch as it was a year ago.
There were games in which he would continually harass the opposing quarterback, such as against Houston and Indianapolis, but in others—such as in two divisional games in the latter half of the season—he was neutralized in the passing game.
As a playmaker, he did force a fumble that was recovered near the goal line and recorded the first interception of his career, while recording a healthy number of tackles. In all, Worilds never found the consistency in his transition tag season that the front office was hoping to see, and now they must decide if they can afford to bring him back.
Free Agency Outlook: Worilds isn’t far from the prototypical look for a 3-4 outside linebacker from a physical standpoint. He will only be turning 27 still in March, and has shown over the past few years that he can stay healthy, which was a problem that he had early in his career with the Steelers.
There are some notable names around the league currently slated to hit the free agent market at the position, including players in a similar age range. Worilds failed to improve upon his 2013 season, and that could hurt him monetarily on the open market.
The Steelers, however, may need him across from Jarvis Jones, and Worilds has no compelling reason to go elsewhere, nor does he seem to have any concerns over job security. Pittsburgh has become a comfortable environment for him, and he has become a solid player in the system, whereas he could struggle to duplicate that elsewhere.
As long as the two sides could agree to a similarly ‘solid’ contract that comes in well below the cap hit that he commanded last season, I think it’s likely that, as a priority free agent, the Steelers get a deal done with him prior to free agency.