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Steelers to release LaMarr Woodley; Taylor restructures contract

| Monday, March 10, 2014, 2:36 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review file
Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley during a game against the Patriots last season in Foxborough, Mass. LaMarr Woodley is about to become one of the most expensive ex-Steelers in team history. The team will release the former Pro Bowl outside linebacker, one who is coming off three consecutive injury-interrupted seasons.
CHAZ PALLA | TRIBUNE-REVIEW FILE
LaMarr Woodley is about to become one of the most expensive ex-Steelers in team history. The team will release the former Pro Bowl outside linebacker — one who is coming off three consecutive injury-interrupted seasons — on June 1.

LaMarr Woodley quickly went from being the highest-paid defensive player in Steelers history to being paid nothing by them.

The Steelers will release Woodley, one of the NFL's premier pass rushers, when the NFL free agent signing period starts Tuesday at 4 p.m., according to his representatives. He can sign with any team after that, and he immediately becomes one of the top outside linebackers on the open market.

Ike Taylor, however, isn't going anywhere. The cornerback said Monday he completed a contract restructuring that assures the 33-year-old of, in his words, “being a Rooney and a LeBeau” for life.

Taylor is reducing his salary from $7 million to $2.75 million, thus creating an additional $4.25 million of salary cap space, according to a source involved in the negotiations. His cap hit is reduced from $11.942 million, which would have been the second highest on the team, to $7.692 million. He will not get back the money in a signing bonus, but he likely preserved his spot on the team by agreeing to the pay cut.

By releasing Woodley, the Steelers are off the hook for the $25.5 million in salary remaining on his contract, and they'll gain about $8 million in salary cap relief this year. However, that savings won't immediately benefit the Steelers, who go into free agency about $7 million to $8 million under the $133 million cap, barring any further contract restructurings.

“I'm not surprised,” NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger said. “They're trying to get younger, save some money, and they're gradually getting to this point where they're eliminating guys who are in their 30s. The cap's going up $10 million this year and going up $10 million next year, and I'm sure that factors into it. (GM) Kevin (Colbert) is probably saying: ‘We're going to take this hit and play the younger guys and recoup (this) with the cap going up.' ”

Woodley will be designated as a post-June 1 release for salary cap purposes, so his entire $13.59 million cap hit remains in place until then. After that, Woodley's cap hit will be $5.6 million in 2014 and $8.5 million in 2015.

After having five sacks in the first six games in 2013 — playing better than at any time since he had 7 12 sacks during a four-game stretch in 2011 — Woodley was out of the lineup much of the rest of the season with calf injuries in both legs. He missed 14 full games the last three seasons. That absence allowed Jason Worilds to settle in at left outside linebacker, and he thrived there with seven sacks in eight games after having only one sack in his previous 12 games.

The Steelers signaled last week they were going with Worilds over Woodley by tagging Worilds as their transition player with a $9.54 million price tag this season. The two sides are working on a multiyear extension that would lower his 2014 salary.

Woodley, a second-round draft pick in 2007, was a second-team All-Pro player and a Pro Bowl pick by 2009, his third season. He had 52 sacks in his first six seasons, the most in Steelers history. But he has only nine of his 57 career sacks over the last 2 12 seasons amid concerns that his weight — he's listed at 265 but likely played heavier than that — factored into his injuries.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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