Coming off back-to-back 8-8 seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers are faced with their same difficult decisions they usually have, with major holes to fill and very little money to fill them.
With Woodley coming off back-to-back unproductive injury-plagued seasons and Worilds an unrestricted free agent who could capitalize on the best season of his career, the common opinion is that the Steelers should simply release Woodley and use the money he would have gotten to give to Worilds.
However, it is not that simple. Cutting Woodley, despite how much the Steelers would probably like to do so, won’t do them any favors.
Releasing Woodley this year would cost the Steelers more against the salary cap than actually keeping him would. Sure, cutting Woodley before June would save about $14 million on the 2015 cap, but it does nothing to help the Steelers improve now.
There’s the option of cutting Woodley after June 8, which would free up some money for this season, but would also add millions to the 2015 salary cap, which would also be counterproductive.
But more importantly, if they do decide to cut Woodley after June 8, chances are that Worilds would have already signed way before then, whether it be with the Steelers or someone else.
Then there is the fact that by June, there aren’t many potential upgrades at any position left on the market, so the Steelers will have a hard time using the money owed to Woodley to improve the team for next season.
Finally, there is the depth factor, and there is no real way around it.
Say the Steelers cut Woodley and find a way to re-sign Worilds, then Worilds gets hurt. Who fills in at outside linebacker? There is no depth at all and the Steelers aren’t likely to add any in the offseason.
You can make the same case about keeping Woodley and letting Worilds walk as judging by recent history, Woodley is likely to find a way to miss a few games in 2014 as well.
It would be in the Steelers’ best interest to keep both guys for at least one more season, although they would have to get very creative to make that happen.
Cutting Woodley really doesn’t do anything to help the Steelers this season. If they do, it will be a personnel decision and nothing to do with freeing up money for the short term.
If the Steelers are looking to free some money up for this season, they will have to look in other places.