NFL free agent news: LaMarr Woodley released, Michael Bennett re-signs with Seahawks

Geoff Burke

Free agency doesn't kick off until Tuesday, but there was plenty of activity on Monday including one of the top free agents coming off the market.

The Pittsburgh Steelers made the decision to release linebacker LaMarr Woodley on Monday. More accurately, they informed Woodley of the decision and it was then reported, though they will not make his release official until the start of the new league year on Tuesday.

By doing things that way, the Steelers can designate Woodley as a June 1 cut. This helps them save more money against the salary cap in 2014 by only charging his 2014 bonus money to the 2014 cap, with the rest of it moving to 2015. Pittsburgh will save more than $10 million against the salary cap during the next two seasons with Woodley's release, and the move clears up plenty of room for this year as well.

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Had the team not designated Woodley as a June 1 cut, then he would have counted more than $14 million against the 2014 cap, with a base salary of $8 million. Pittsburgh likely had a place for him next season, but after Jason Worilds took his starting spot on the left side, the Steelers were not willing to take a risk on Woodley remaining healthy at that price. The contract was originally signed in 2011 and was for six years and $61.5 million with $17 million guaranteed.

Woodley missed 15 games during the past three seasons since signing his new deal, and Worilds took advantage of his absence in 2013 with his best season to date. Worilds managed eight sacks and is locked in as the starter on the left side going forward. The team committed big dollars to Worilds already this offseason, placing the transition tag on the four-year veteran, and will try to get him signed to a long-term deal as soon as possible.

Bennett, Seahawks agree to deal

The Seattle Seahawks were able to retain the services of defensive lineman Michael Bennett. Seattle reached a four-year deal worth $28.5 million, including $16 million guaranteed. It's somewhat surprising, given that much of the buzz of late had been about how the Chicago Bears were trying to secure Bennett once he hit the open market. It was known that Seattle wanted to extend Bennett, with the team making him a top priority after winning the Super Bowl, but it was also assumed that Bennett wanted to test his value on the open market. It seems likely he was able to do that in unofficial negotiations and then elected to return to Seattle.

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Holmes release made official

The New York Jets announced the release of wide receiver Santonio Holmes on Monday. Holmes played good football with the Jets, but sustained multiple injuries in 2012 and 2013 that limited him to only 15 games over the two-year span. His best season with New York came back in 2010, and it was all downhill from there. He was relatively healthy in 2011, but still under-performed. With the move, the Jets will save almost $8 million in cap space for 2014.

Babin voids contract

Jacksonville Jaguars pass rusher Jason Babin voided the remaining two years on his contract and will now hit the open market. Babin was a waiver claim in 2012 and has played well for the Jaguars, recording nine sacks in 21 games with the team. He was a candidate to be released given his $6 million base salary and the fact that the Jaguars likely want to get younger at the position, as noted by Big Cat Country:

It's likely the Jaguars address the pass rusher position in the 2014 NFL Draft or in free agency, but with Andre Branch and Ryan Davis returning and the likely addition of another young pass rusher, Babin's playing time likely would not have matched his salary.

49ers will release Carlos Rogers

San Francisco and Carlos Rogers moved closer to going their separate ways as Josina Anderson of ESPN reported the 49ers will release the veteran cornerback. The move isn't much of a surprise as a split has been rumored for months. Recent reports indicated Rogers would be released if he didn't agree to a pay cut. When the move becomes official, the 49ers will save $5.1 million in salary cap space, according to OverTheCap.com. With Rogers set for release and Tarrell Brown scheduled to hit the free agent market on Tuesday, San Francisco could be looking for a cornerback or two this offseason.

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