Steelers Transition or Franchise Tags Should Go Unused in 2015


The Steelers did something out of the ordinary last season when they placed the transition tag on OLB Jason Worilds. The team rarely uses a one time big payout on a player, and that particular tag has not been used often with any team in the NFL.

Don’t expect them to use that one or the franchise tag with any players on the Steelers roster – especially Jason Worilds.

Both types of tags are expensive one year payouts. The franchise tag is the ‘safe’ tag. It locks a player up as long as the salary is a minimum of the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position, or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater.

A player can be given the ‘franchise’ and speak with other teams if the team offers less than the 120%. They become ‘non-exclusive’ at that point, and the team must match any other offer – similar to the transition tag.

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The transition tag comes cheaper than the franchise tag, but also is the riskier tag. A team that places a transition tag on a player will have seven days of first right of refusal and match the monies offered from the outside.

It would make for a dicey situation if the Steelers used either one of these tags in 2015.

Bidding War For Jason Worilds

The Steelers could place another tag on Jason Worilds. A franchise tag would cost them around $13.2 million for the year. A transition would cost them around $11 million. I know it. You know it. Probably even Worilds knew it. Worilds did not play like he was worth that kind of money.

The Steelers should know that too, and think long and hard before committing to that much cash for a guy who had a declining year. The long term contract is the way to go. Worilds is known to have said that he really wants to stay. Some speculate that he wants to stay in Pittsburgh so badly that he would be willing to negotiate less.

Plus, the Steelers really don’t want to find themselves getting into a matching war with another team like the New Orleans Saints of Philly Eagles. If the Steelers transition tag Worilds, and those teams or any hand him something worth more, then the Steelers must match that offer – which could potentially be a million or two more than what they really wanted to or could afford.

Room For Big Ben?

Jan 3, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback

Ben Roethlisberger

(7) passes the ball against the Baltimore Ravens during the second quarter in the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Heinz Field. The Ravens won 30-17. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of needing to make room. Ben Roethlisberger and a handful of free agents need extended contracts – most notably Big Ben. If the Steelers tag Worilds, then they may not be able to afford Ben even if they restructure his current contract’s cap hit in 2015 with a new 5-6 year extension.

There’s quite a formula the Steelers will need to come up with in order to fit the Top 51 in along with a Roethlisberger contract extension. The back end will be easy with $90 million in cap space free for 2017 and beyond. But, the first year will be tough to squeeze unless the folks at the table get creative.

Big Ben is the highest priority, and handing over an extra $5-8 million over to someone like Worilds, who would not be guaranteed after this season, seems like bad business.

If not Worilds, then who else? The tag only gets more and more expensive as one moves up the list. $11 million is cheap compared to the others, such as QB’s and RB’s.

The Steelers would be best to pass, and I believe they will.

So what to do with Jason Worilds? Easy. Sign him long term. Get him cheap with lots of incentives to keep him productive this season and next, then increase his guaranteed pay. I think that’s very possible and would allow the Steelers to lock up someone who is familiar with the defense and its staff (even with Keith Butler taking over).

The Big Ben extension along with some other free agent to be signings will practically hamstring the Steelers from throwing (away) $11 million in pay. They more than likely could afford Arthur Moats and James Harrison for a third of that cost.

Next: Steelers Should Let Worilds Walk