- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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On Monday ESPN.com reported Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker LaMarr Woodley will not get a long-term extension before the start of the 2010 season. Since Pittsburgh rarely negotiates with players during the season, Woodley has a good chance to hit free agency next year.
So what's next for Woodley and the Steelers? Here are three possibilities:
1. Try to negotiate a short-term deal
Analysis: The 30 percent rule during an uncapped year is making long-term negotiations extremely challenging. This is especially the case for Woodley, who was a second-round pick and could only make a maximum salary of $598,000 this season. A short, two-year deal could be a way around it. Pittsburgh can provide Woodley enough of a raise in short-term bonuses, while the base salaries wouldn't be as big an issue compared to a five- or six-year deal. But the Steelers have already closed the door on negotiations, so chances are very slim.
2. Wait for the new collective bargaining agreement
Analysis: This is a more likely route for the Steelers. Once a new CBA is in place, that can provide a road map to reopen contract talks with Woodley. One issue is it's unknown when a new CBA will be completed. Another is Woodley could price himself out of the Steelers' range with another Pro Bowl season. For example, would another season of double-digit sacks from Woodley this year command Terrell Suggs ($63 million) or even DeMarcus Ware ($78 million) type money on the open market? If so, are the Steelers willing to pay it?
3. Franchise tag
Analysis: If Woodley has another monster year, there is a chance he could get the franchise tag. This option for teams has been the bane of a lot of top-flight players in the past. The tricky part is it's unknown whether teams will be able to use the franchise tag next year. NFL teams want it. The NFLPA wants it to disappear. This is one of many points of contention between the two groups. If the franchise tag sticks, that gives the Steelers one more option to consider with Woodley next year.