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Steelers Play Tag With Worilds

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Finally, some action…

The Pittsburgh Steelers made their first big move of the off-season, placing the transition tag on free agent linebacker Jason Worilds. I’m sure many of you are asking, “What the hell is a transition tag?” Well, it’s basically the Franchise tag’s wacky distant cousin. Where the Franchise tag comes in two flavors – exclusive and non-exclusive – and all but guarantees the player stays with his original team, the transition tag is more of a high stakes game of chicken.

Franchise tags either prevent the player from negotiating with other teams (exclusive) or come with two first round picks compensation if he signs elsewhere (non-exclusive). The transition tag comes with no such protection. Worilds is free to negotiate with other teams with the only catch being the Steelers have the right to match any offer. The transition tag will save them a couple million against the cap – transition players are paid the average of the top ten players at their position vs top five for Franchise players. In Worild’s case, he’ll get $9 million as a transitioned linebacker vs $11 million he’d get as a Franchise.

What this boils down to is the Steelers are gambling that no team will be willing to pay Worilds more than $9 million this upcoming season.

If some team does decide to go after Worilds, would the Black and Gold be able to match? Well, they did get some great news a couple days ago when it was announced the 2014 salary cap would be going up by a whopping $10 million. In one fell swoop, they went from being an unwieldy $18 over to a much more manageable $8 million. Throw in a recent contract restructuring for Heath Miller that likely cuts his scheduled $9 million cap hit by a significant amount and the looming off-season Red Wedding might be reduced to only a couple quick beheadings.

Of course, one of the heads on the chopping block is LaMarr Woodley. The Steelers committing a big chunk of cash to Worilds clearly indicates he’s in their plans for the future. With first round pick Jarvis Jones manning one linebacker spot, that leaves two highly paid players fighting over one starting position. Yeah, it’d be nice to have depth but there’s just no way they’re allotting that much money to a back-up. If anything, this moves smacks of the Steelers trying to buy time until they can cut Woodley without accruing too much dead money this season.

Should that be the case, I sure hope the Steelers’ plan works. The only thing worse than having a player you don’t want is having a player you don’t want who knows he’s not wanted.