The Pittsburgh Steelers took the first step in keeping linebacker Jason Worilds for at least another season. Pittsburgh opted not to place the franchise tag on Worilds, but did use the transition tag on the 26-year-old, the team announced.
By using the transition tag, Pittsburgh retains the right to match any offer Worilds receives in free agency. However, the team would not receive compensation if it chose not to match the offer. Worilds is free to negotiate with Pittsburgh or any other club once free agency begins. He's also been tendered a one-year deal worth $9.754 million, should he choose not to sign a long-term deal.
Pittsburgh opted not to use the more-restrictive franchise tag on Worilds. By doing so, Pittsburgh would have received two first-round picks if Worilds signed with another team. Money likely played a significant role in the decision with the transition tag tender costing nearly $2 million less than the franchise tender would have, according to Behind the Steel Curtain.
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SB Nation NFL
Worilds moved into a starting role last season and played well. He finished the season with a career-high 8.0 sacks. He was also solid against the run, earning a plus-5.1 run-defense grade according to Pro Football Focus, the second-highest run defense grade on the Steelers. If he does sign elsewhere and Pittsburgh opts not to match, 2013 first-round pick Jarvis Jones would likely see an increase in playing time.
While the transition tag does give Pittsburgh some security with the ability to match any offer, it also eats up a large chunk of its salary cap. The $9.754 cost is likely much higher than what Worilds would average per year on a long-term deal. With that payout and the long-term deal LaMarr Woodley currently has, the cap-strapped Steelers have 18 percent of their salary cap tied up in those two outside linebackers, according to Michael Uhlhorn. However, that may not last into the season:
While the Steelers are not guaranteed to keep Worilds in the fold, if no team signs him to a deal and he returns to the Steelers, one has to assume that Woodley would be a June 1 cut, saving Pittsburgh $8 million on the cap in 2014 and transferring the cap hit to 2015. I cannot imagine Pittsburgh carrying Worilds and Woodley at those cap numbers.