Long-Term Deal For LaMarr Woodley "Impossible"

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley is entering the final year of a four-year, $3.53 million dollar contract he received after being chosen with the 46th overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft out of the University of Michigan.

In 44 games, including 31 starts over the last two seasons, Woodley has 136 tackles, 29 quarterback sacks, and an interception. Woodley also has 50 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles, and five fumble recoveries, two of which he's returned for touchdowns.

During the 2007 and 2008 playoffs, Woodley has totaled 19 tackles, including 8 quarterback sacks. After the 2009 season, Woodley was named an Associated Press second-team All-Pro, and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

Given Woodley's production, potential, and contract status, the Steelers would like nothing more than to lock him up for the long-term, but as Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote this morning, it would be impossible for the Steelers to do so due to the 30% rule governing contract extensions in an uncapped season.

"Woodley could expect a five-year contract for at least $40 million, probably more. The Steelers signed linebacker James Harrison to a six-year, $51.75 million contract last year," Bouchette writes, adding that "with the 30 percent rule, the Steelers could only give Woodley $4.37 million of that in salaries over a five-year contract. The rest would have to come in a signing bonus of more than $35 million. That's not going to happen."

The Steelers haven't made a habit out of unnecessarily entering into big-money contracts, but they have shown a willingness to extend deals with vital members of the franchise. To avoid the risks of losing Woodley after next season--which Bouchette details in the article--it wouldn't be surprising to see Woodley sign a one-year contract extension, not unlike what the Philadelphia Eagles did with Kevin Kolb, who coincidentally was chosen ten spots ahead of Woodley in the 2007 NFL Draft.

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