The Steelers got some good news Tuesday as linebacker Jason Worilds agreed to sign his one-year transition tender offer the team tagged him with Monday.
Worilds’ decision means he will not be eligible to sign with another team during the free-agency period and will be permitted to attend the Steelers’ offseason workouts.
The transition tender guarantees the fifth-year linebacker the average salary of the top 10 players in the league at his position, which is $9.75 million.
Now that Worilds has agreed to sign the offer sheet, the Steelers are trying to negotiate a long-term deal with their 2013 sack leader that will not only keep him in Pittsburgh beyond this season, but also offer the team salary cap relief.
After adding Worilds’ 1-year deal, the Steelers are approximately $15 million over the 2014 salary cap of $133 million.
A 2010 second-round draft pick, Worilds made only eight starts in his first three seasons while playing behind James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. But the Steelers released Harrison in a cap-related move last year and selected Jarvis Jones in the first round of the draft.
Worilds opened the season splitting time with Jones but eventually won a starting job, setting career highs for tackles (63) and sacks (8).
The Steelers also must decide what to do with Woodley, who will count $13.59 million against the cap. Simply releasing him now does not appear to be an option because it would accelerate Woodley’s contract and make him count an additional $580,000 against the cap.
If the Steelers release Woodley after June 1, however, he would count just $5.59 million against next season’s cap with the additional $8 million being pushed to 2015.
All teams must be under the cap by March 11 and the Steelers have 20 remaining players who will become unrestricted free agents on that day, including wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, defensive linemen Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood and Al Woods, safety Ryan Clark and running backs Jonathan Dwyer, Felix Jones and LaRod Stephens-Howling.