Kovacevic: Time to end the Woodley mistake
Kovacevic: Time to end the Woodley mistake
By Dejan Kovacevic
Published: Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013
MILWAUKEE — At whichever point makes the most fiscal sense following the coming flip of the calendar, the Steelers front office should — no, must, if it is to be taken seriously — release LaMarr Woodley.
Sure, it'll sting. It would represent, at least from this view, the most expensive mistake in franchise history at $36 million for three lousy seasons and a contract extension cut halfway through its six-year, $61.5 million term.
Actually, I'll go further and suggest it would represent the most expensive mistake in our city's sporting history, eclipsing the $10.1 million buyout the Pirates paid a noodle-armed Matt Morris to go enjoy his Florida beach house in 2008.
But even so, even with all the embarrassment that will follow, even with all the residual damage to the Steelers' cap structure, this move shouldn't be accompanied by a sliver of regret.
Not now, anyway. What's done is done.
And Woodley needs to be done here.
I won't lie. I applauded when the Steelers signed Woodley to this extension on the eve of the 2011 season. I'm betting most of the fan base did, too.
And why not?
Woodley was 26, an All-Pro at the critical outside linebacker's spot in a 3-4 defense and had 39 sacks in 60 games. There were times he was unstoppable.
But we all know how it has turned out: Woodley has just 18 sacks in three seasons since, a sad rate of $500,000 per sack. He would get blocked by undersized running backs. He would make it through an entire game without a tackle. And when the Steelers take to Lambeau Field on Sunday, they'll do so for a 13th time without Woodley since the contract. The following week, in the finale against the Cleveland Browns, it'll be a 14th time as he's on injured reserve with a calf injury.
He's been a ripoff in every regard.
The damage only deepens when looking at the Steelers' salary cap situation: If they release Woodley right away, he still will cost $14.17 million against their 2014 cap. That plus Willie Colon's $4.3 million in equally dead money would represent 15 percent of the payroll. If they wait until June 1 to release Woodley, as they did with Colon last summer, Woodley's cap hit gets staggered over the next two seasons.
I'm no capologist, so I wouldn't touch the timing issue. But as for fretting over dead money as it pertains to a Woodley release, hey, isn't that kind of what the Steelers have been getting out of him for three years now?
Time to acknowledge a mistake.
Jason Worilds must be kept.
That's what matters now the most, I'd say, of any decision the Steelers must make this offseason.
That's not to make Worilds out to be the next Derrick Thomas. He has played seven strong games in three NFL seasons, all in the past two months. But he's only 25, he took off as soon as he was moved to his natural left side at outside linebacker in place of Woodley, and the Steelers can ill afford to lose the one player who consistently has pressured the quarterback in the past two years.
That might mean franchising Worilds, which would be hugely expensive at $11 million for one year, but it also might not.
I've spent a lot of time with Worilds in recent weeks and am plenty comfortable characterizing his position this way: He wants to play. Sure, he wants to get paid, but he has zero issues with staying in Pittsburgh except that he wants to know he'll play.
Given that a first-round pick was just invested in another outside linebacker, Jarvis Jones, I'll say right here what Worilds never would: Woodley has to go.
If Worilds knows Woodley will be gone, he would entertain signing a long-term extension.
If Worilds isn't assured of that, he would be a fool to stay and risk getting buried again.
As for Jones, he hasn't shown as a rookie, to put it kindly. But he also needs to play to take that step.
Time to move on.
The best these Steelers can finish is 8-8 for a second consecutive year. Change is needed, especially on an old, slow defense.
A change is needed in attitude, too, which provides yet another compelling reason to be rid of Woodley.
His failure to keep himself in peak condition has infuriated the Steelers at all levels, especially the coaches, who look to veterans to lead, not lag, in that area. He has reported to camps overweight. He's visibly slower and weaker than ever. And, most maddening of all for those involved, this latest calf injury was another of the soft-tissue variety, the kind that drive coaches nuts.
Woodley got paid, got fat, got hurt. It'll happen again.
There's more: Upon joining the Steelers from Michigan, Woodley was among the most approachable, amicable players in the team's circle. But he has changed dramatically, no doubt coinciding with his dropoff. He has become abrasive and aggressive with people inside and outside the team. He has also consistently found a way to blame everyone for his dropoff except the man in the mirror. It's been ugly and uncomfortable to watch.
Any team will tolerate the most boorish of personalities so long as they perform, but this personality combined with this performance?
The Steelers will be a far healthier franchise for acknowledging a mistake and moving on.
Pittsburgh Steelers LaMarr Woodley Victim Under New Rules?
BY CRAIG GOTTSCHALK - DEC 26TH, 2013
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker and local lardo, LaMarr Woodley, was recently shelved for the season by being placed on IR for a calf injury…. again. Once again Woodley’s season ends far below the expectations that a $61.5 million contract would demand.
He has just 18 sacks in three seasons, and has been hurt in all three seasons. He’s shown up to camp overweight and far from being a top LB in the league, as he once was thought of just prior to his big contract extension. His attitude in the locker room is a poor as his performance is on the field. He is no stranger to criticism – from the main media as well as our own folks here – and is quickly being pushed to the executioner’s block by those same people (and then some). But, after reading an article yesterday about a certain coach’s comments about the recent changes in workout limits, I began to wonder if players like Woodley are being set up to fail and falling victim to the rules?
The AP article reports some comments from Mr. Happy Pants, coach Bill Belichick. He is unhappy with the recent rules about workouts (offseason and during) and believes that they are contributing to the recent rash of injuries that are shelving players. In a conference call to Buffalo reporters, he had this to say,
I’m in favor of total preparation for the players for the season. And I think that’s been changed significantly and, I would say, not necessarily for the better when you look at the injury numbers.
The AP reported that Belichick believes players are less prepared than they were before the agreement because of the restrictions placed on offseason workouts and training camp.
Personally, I think that’s taking the wrong approach. You have a gap between preparation and competition level. And I think that’s where you see a lot of injuries occurring. We get a lot of breakdowns. We get a lot of situations that players just aren’t as prepared as they were in previous years, in my experience anyway.
As much as I would love to take Captain Sweatshirt and dump him in the most polluted part of the Monongahela, the architect of Spygate brings up some very good points. They aren’t revolutionary. There was quite a bit of concern raised by many pundits, media types, and coaches when the new workout rules became part of the new CBA between the players and the league. Is the dismissal of the ‘Two-a-days’, other offseason workout requirements, and padded practice restrictions the cause of players like LaMarr Woodley to show up to camp unfit for the NFL and then injury prone as the season wears on?
Personally, I feel like the players got away with a big crime when the league agreed to the new practice rules. Just like thieves, they are stealing away money from the consumers – us, the fans – with these new rules. The league will dispute that the new rules are contributing to injuries (though the refuse to release hard data on it), but we know how well the league handles and comes out on top when they dispute any sort of health related issue and the game – i.e. concussions. But there’s no doubt in my mind that the fans get bit the most because they have to watch players’ whose contracts put a financial bind on the team ride the pine with injuries that are related to poor conditioning.
Okay, I’m sure 99.99% of you out there have been thinking this whole time, “How in the world does this mean Woodley is a ‘victim’ of the new rules?” Well, quite honestly, he’s not a victim at all. His unwillingness to stay in shape (and dare I say get better) and unwillingness to lay off the pork rinds during the offseason is his own choice. But the rules invite that kind of behavior. Woodley signed a big contract and came to camp looking like the Stay Puft’s little cousin. Woodley, and other players like him (who sign these big extensions after a ‘great’ single season performance) are no longer accountable for staying in shape and prepared to play big boy football. They sign their contract and no longer have to show up for what used to be mandatory OTA’s, workouts, and rigorous training camps. It breeds a poor attitude. And, that has not gone unnoticed with Woodley. As pointed out by the Trib’s Dejan Kovacevic, Woodley’s attitude has become abrasive and unapproachable at times in the locker room – which is a huge swing from where he was when he first joined the squad coming out of Michigan. Dejan puts it rather well,
His failure to keep himself in peak condition has infuriated the Steelers at all levels, especially the coaches, who look to veterans to lead, not lag, in that area. He has reported to camps overweight. He’s visibly slower and weaker than ever. And, most maddening of all for those involved, this latest calf injury was another of the soft-tissue variety, the kind that drive coaches nuts. Woodley got paid, got fat, got hurt. It’ll happen again. There’s more: Upon joining the Steelers from Michigan, Woodley was among the most approachable, amicable players in the team’s circle. But he has changed dramatically, no doubt coinciding with his dropoff. He has become abrasive and aggressive with people inside and outside the team. He has also consistently found a way to blame everyone for his dropoff except the man in the mirror. It’s been ugly and uncomfortable to watch.
Woodley is not an isolated case, and I believe we will witness more of this kind of evolution (or is it de-evolution?) happening in the league. And what’s a team and its coaches to do? After a year or two of obvious lack of effort and production (that then leads to constant injury), are teams supposed to just take vicious cap hits by releasing the offending party? Teams are cornered and (pardon the expression) hamstrung. There’s no way out, and the players are smart enough to realize this.
So while the practice and workout rule changes may not be directly responsible for the Steelers having a $10.1 million dollar problem on its hands in 2014, those recent changes certainly have encouraged that kind of behavior and attitude with something that was supposed to be practiced in good faith. Not every player will take advantage of this situation. Most players want to work as hard they can. They want to be Pro Bowlers for more than just a year. They want to win championships and try to be known as one of the best to ever play they game in their respective position. But unfortunately for the Steelers, the got burned with Woodley – and it has indeed been ugly and uncomfortable to watch.
I know getting rid of Woodley would cost us dearly in a financial sense, but I would cut the cord. (easy to say when its not your money, lol) But it almost angers me more because of the perceived complacency after the big contract.
Problem is, I think Woirlds goes the Victor Butler route this offseason and his play this year pushes him out of the Steelers range. So if you cut Woodley (my personnel decision) but don't have the cap to re-sign Woirlds (financial decision) then where are you at?
So good luck with that one Omar Khan tough one....
the money is already spent. woodley gets 8 million in his pocket if he isnt cut this year.
Originally Posted by thor75
I understand...... yo wo nigh indeed. our woe is near.
Originally Posted by squidkid
Hall of Famer
Rooneys aren't gonna let all that money just walk out the door. They are logical businessmen and the logical thing to dowould be to just keep him on the team, since his cap hit would be so large. Woodley stays, imo. Worilds may go on to sign a bigger deal elsewhere.
6- Time Super Bowl Champions......
IX X XIII XIV XL XLIII
2012 MNF Executive Champion
as I've said elsewhere - you're paying the guy regardless and stay or go, he's not going to play. if you keep him and stubbornly put him on the field - you're not going to get the production you plan for. it's over. pay what you have to pay, free up the roster spot and move on. maybe it's a bad small-time apples to oranges analogy - but my wife runs a small restaurant. she buys produce every third day. on rare occasions, the lettuce starts to turn brown before the next shipment. if you go with the woodley argument - she should simply serve it to the customers because: brown lettuce won't hurt them and it's already paid for.
but instead, she takes the financial hit and sends me to giant eagle for fresh young produce.
seems like fresh young produce is exactly what the steelers need.
Woodley gets paid nothing this year if he gets cut by the Steelers...if cut, he would count that highly against the cap because of what the Steelers already paid him upfront...if Worilds is kept, depth behind Worilds and Jones is not good right now...ask Woodley to take a pay cut and then make him earn his money by beating out Jones on the right side...if he can't, then he becomes a backup to both OLB positions at a backup salary...then, cut bait after this season if necessary...
One difference, though. And though I've been hard on Woodley, calling him out for fat-catting it way back when... there is still a chance that he produces next year. It's a small chance, yeah. But he could play 12-16 games next year. And if he does, I think he is good for solid run D and 8-10 sacks.
Originally Posted by Starlifter
The question for me, is the capology (which confounds me). I tend to fall on the brown lettuce side, as a practical guy: He's already paid for, we gotta use him. But (what I don't know), is how much we would actually save (benefit), by cutting him. And knowing what we could potentially use the savings for (how that savings might affect keeping others e.g. Polamalu).
As for Worilds, I also think he is going to be hard to keep. And frankly, I don't think he's that indispensable, even though I realize that we need to keep all the young talent we have. He's a nice complimentary piece, but I think he'll get paid as something more.
A few points:
1.) The Rooneys are slow to admit mistakes, after they drop $. Or, are we so soon to forget how slow they were to admit Kordell was a bad move after they paid him big $, when he had TWO seasons left on his deal, all because Cowher said it would boost his confidence, which was all that was needed to alter his crappy play? After the Rooneys dropped that coin, they were - and did - act in a very slow manner to admit he sucked as a QB. Will they have the self esteem to admit Woodley was a mistake? Or will they pig-headily refuse to admit it and keep him on the roster? Let's not also forget the mistakes they made - and refused to admit - when they gave Kirkland, Chad Scott, Gildon, et al their big deals only to see them play uninspired, unproductive football right after they got their big $.
2.) To read these articles, you would think that LW came in as fat and out-of-shape as he did last year. That is not the case. He came in at least 20 lbs lighter, and was quicker than last season. But, alas, it wasn't good enough; he still was fairly unproductive. Why? Could still be desire, with it lacking since he put that large chunk of $ in the bank. It could be because he stopped taking certain "supplements." Or, he could just be over the hill at an early age.
3.) There is more to this than just the $ and cap. _IF_ LW is not a hard worker, and all the younger guys see it, it is a bad example to set. If, for instance, he hangs around and complains about working out, that is precisely the kind of thing that leads to a team sans a winning attitude. If that is the case, you got to cut him, even if it causes pain with the cap. You have no choice. Do you think such a high level player would EVER be able to bring in a lazy attitude when Lloyd, Woodson, Lake, Ward, Bettis, Harrison, Greene, Farrior, Smith, etc. were around?