The deadline to place the franchise or transition tag on players is at 4:00 p.m. ET time today, and we’ve already seen a couple of surprising and not-so-surprising franchise tag storylines play out today. But maybe the most surprising is the Pittsburgh Steelers decision to use the transition tag on outside linebacker Jason Worilds, who finally broke out last season. CBS Sports’s Jason La Canfora reports that the Steelers have elected to place the transition tag on Worilds, and La Canfora certainly isn’t the only person legitimately surprised by this move.
This move likely seals LaMarr Woodley’s fate with the team, as the disappointing former star edge rusher will likely receive his walking papers at some point this offseason. He’s simply too expensive to keep around, and the Steelers can’t afford to pay him and Worilds while keeping talented 2013 first-round pick Jarvis Jones on the bench. Worilds was considerably more productive than Woodley last season, and it can be convincingly argued that Woodley is a declining player in addition to being an underperforming, overpaid OLB.
Woodley’s poor play over the past couple of seasons made Worilds’s breakout season in 2013 all the more important, and the 26-year-old Virginia Tech product had 63 tackles and eight sacks last season as one of the league’s more productive 3-4 outside linebackers. Hopefully he’ll keep it going next seasons, and it looks like the Steelers were unwilling to take the chances of him hitting the free agent market and potentially needing another upgrade on defense. With Brian Orakpo tagged by the Washington Redskins, the market for edge rushers would have been thin, thus driving up Worilds’s price to a significantly high range- possibly too high for the Steelers to compete with in the context of a bidding war vs. a controlled transition tag.
The transition tag makes much more sense than the franchise tag, because it’s a bit cheaper and isn’t exclusive; it gives the Steelers a chance to match any offers from other teams, so they have the flexibility to decide easily how much is too much for their pockets.