Free-Agency Notes: Will Worilds Shake Loose?

Photo courtesy of USA Today

Photo courtesy of USA Today

Jason Worilds is a name to keep in mind as we inch closer to the start of free agency on March 10.

The Eagles were interested in the 26-year-old outside linebacker last offseason but the Steelers kept him off the market by placing the transition tag on him, a move that cost them just shy of $10 million. If they chose the same course of action this year, they would reportedly have to pay Worilds closer to $11 million.

“Jason had a good year for us last year,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He is still a young player. He is probably still an ascending player. I don’t think you’ve seen the best of him, either, as a Steeler or as a potential player for someone else’s team. He is definitely someone that we will consider keeping. We will see where the market goes.”

The Steelers are currently projected to be slightly over the salary cap for 2015, and that’s without Worilds on the books. That doesn’t mean they can’t find a way to keep him, but they aren’t exactly flush with extra cash, either.

Worilds is listed as the eighth-best free agent edge defender by Rotoworld, one spot ahead of Brandon Graham.  It’s quite possible that Graham will be moving on come March (the Dolphins, Falcons, Jets and Saints are teams that make some sense). Trent Cole — who is currently scheduled to make a base salary of $10 million in 2015 — will be 33 in October and Marcus Smith did little his rookie year to lay claim to one of the OLB spots, so there are some question marks both in the short and long-term  surrounding the post opposite Connor Barwin.

Worilds (6-2, 262) played 98 percent of the snaps for Pittsburgh last year, per Pro Football Focus, finishing with 7.5 sacks and 59 tackles. He dropped into coverage 19 percent of the time and had two passes defensed and an interception. When we spoke to Colbert at the combine last year, he lauded Worilds’ ability to both rush the passer and drop in coverage.

Given his age and skill set, the former second-round pick could be a fit for the Eagles if he’s allowed to shake loose from Pittsburgh.

Some other free-agency notes

 Jason La Canfora recently listed eight players that were “slam dunks” to receive the franchise tag this year. Receivers Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant and Randall Cobb were amongst those mentioned. If true, that elevates Jeremy Maclin to the top of the free-agent receiver list. Just another reason why leverage is on his side.

Given the mutual interest between the Eagles and Maclin, there remains a good chance that he re-ups in Philly. The fact that he hasn’t inked a deal yet isn’t necessarily a cause for concern. As Geoff Mosher recently noted, the Eagles didn’t finalize contracts with Maclin and Riley Cooper until late February last year, so they are not necessarily behind schedule. But it remains in their best interest to lock Maclin up before free agency opens and other teams have the opportunity to entice him with some potentially gaudy numbers.

Also mentioned by La Canfora is the Patriots’ Devin McCourty, who is currently ranked as the top free-agent safety by Rotoworld. The next best options are the Broncos’ Rahim Moore and the Giants’ Antrel Rolle. New defensive backs coach Cory Undlin worked with Moore in Denver.