When you look at the Pittsburgh Steelers early salary cap situation for 2015 as the team heads off into the offseason, you cant help but notice the nearly $9.5 million in dead money that the team is scheduled to be charged next season. $8.58 million of that dead money is attached to former outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who went on to sign with the Oakland Raiders after he was released by the Steelers last March.
In his first season with the Raiders, Woodley suffered yet another injury. This time it was a torn biceps and it resulted in him needing to be placed on injured reserve after only playing in six games.
Woodley’s future with the Raiders is very uncertain right now as the team is currently looking for new head coach. Due to his injury history and the fact that he’s scheduled to earn a $3.85 million base salary in 2015, in addition to a $1 million roster that is due on the fifth day of the new league year, it won’t be surprising to see him released by the Raiders in March.
By now I’m sure you’re able to tell which direction this post is going.
Come the start of the new league year, outside linebackers James Harrison, Jason Worilds and Arthur Moats will all be unrestricted free agent. Harrison could choose to retire again, but if he decides he wants to play one more season, he undoubtedly wouldn’t be willing to accept the veteran minimum to do so.
Worilds, on the other hand, will more than likely be allowed to test the free agent market this offseason as I highly doubt the Steelers will be looking to tag him for a second straight season. While there’s a chance he’ll ultimately sign a long-term deal with the Steelers, I don’t think that’s anything I would bet on.
In the case of Moats, he will more than likely be re-signed at a reasonable price. However, you have to wonder if he’s really starter material. Personally, I don’t think he is, but that’s not my decision.
While the Steelers did carry rookie undrafted free agent Howard Jones on their practice squad all season, I think he will still take a lot of time to develop. His biggest challenge over the summer will be making the final 53 man roster out of training camp as a backup.
Sixth-round draft pick Jordan Zumwalt had his rookie season wiped out by a hamstring injury. Also, in addition to not being able to practice all season being as he was on injured reserve, there’s still some question as to whether or not he can play the outside linebacker position in a 3-4 defense at the NFL level. In other words, like Jones, his biggest challenge will be making the final 53 man roster out of training camp.
The Steelers are unlikely to chase any expensive 3-4 outside linebacker free agents during the offseason so if both Harrison and Worilds wind up not returning for 2015, general manager Kevin Colbert will have to go bargain shopping for one in addition to drafting one in April.
If Woodley winds up being released by the Raiders, he’s unlikely to have many suitors because of his injury history. If his biceps rehab goes as scheduled and he gets himself into great shape, the Steelers might want to think about bringing him back on a one-year qualifying contract for the minimum. That way there would be no risk involved in signing him and in addition, Woodley would have one more season to prove himself. Keep in mind that he won’t turn 31 until November.
I know that several of you have sworn off Woodley for good following his release last offseason, but if the price were right, how many of you would be on board with him returning in 2015 if both Worilds and Harrison don’t? If not Woodley, what other bargain free agents would you be interested in?