The Steelers forced the hand of Jason Worilds when they surprised everybody involved and placed the rarely used transition tag on the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent linebacker.
But now (and quite quickly) all the leverage has shifted right back to Worilds’ camp.
The Steelers have no choice but sign Worilds to a long term deal sooner rather than later. The Steelers know that. Worilds knows that.
But in reality, that is what the Steelers wanted. They were well aware that when a transition tag is applied that interested teams tend to back off, and back off fast.
Why you ask?
Well, organizations don’t want to put time and effort into negotiating a contract with a transition player – or franchise player – just to have him take the offer sheet back to the original team for right of first refusal.
Transition tags are rare, but what is even more rare is for organizations to negotiate with a player, draw up an offer sheet and go through the whole ordeal associated with it just to present it to the original team, who matches the offer and keeps the player.
Simply put, they do all the work and you get the player
It was truly as simple as that.
The Steelers had to feel that there was going to be plenty of interest in the free agency market for Worilds come March 11 thus the decision to use the transition tag in the first place.
Knowing that organizations don’t like to do the grunt work without a payoff along with the Steelers’ important wildcard of having the ability to rescind the transition tag at any point is why Worilds snapped up the 1-year, $9.754 million tender in less than 24 hours.
Trust me, the last thing an agent wants is an already cooled-off free agent because of the transition tag getting the offer rescinded by the original team a week into free agency when teams have already moved on. At that point, there are less teams and less money to go around.
That’s why Worilds accepted the transition tender quickly.
Oh yeah, let me remind you that is nearly $10 million of guaranteed money in a league that does not guaranteed contracts, too, so that helped as well.
So, sure, the Steelers knew what they were doing when they transition tagged Worilds. They were ensuring he would be back for at least one more year but more importantly, they bought time to work on a long-term deal.
And that’s the Steelers ultimate plan.
However, all the leverage now shifts to Worilds’ camp.
The Steelers do not want and cannot afford a $10 million cap hit this year and will be highly motivated to get a deal done.
Sure, playing on a 1-year deal as a 26-year-old is a risk and Worilds will do that if he has to, but the ultimate plan is to sign a long-term deal. That is what both sides want.
And with the notion of a long-term deal as being imminent means that the departure of LaMarr Woodley is also creeping up.
Let’s face it, Woodley isn’t on solid ground anymore. Not because he has missed 14 games in three years and has played just more than 50 percent of the snaps since signing his $61.5 million deal three years ago. He’s gone because you are not going to play $61.5 million to a backup – especially when your team doesn’t have much cap space to play with in the first place.
Guaranteeing Worilds nearly $10 million means that the Steelers have to sign him long-term meaning you are assuring him a starting job meaning you aren’t paying Woodley $61.5 million to be backup.
And no, Woodley won’t take a pay cut.