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Insider Only NFL: 30 percent rule not a hold up in contract talks with Woodley?

Steelers lack of creativity to open talks frustrating Woodley’s camp?

With no collective bargaining agreement in place, Pittsburgh Steelers star linebacker LaMarr Woodley has fallen into the limited certain player negotiations such as the “30 percent rule.”
Woodley who led the Steelers with 13.5 sacks in 2009 is a rising star in the NFL and entering the final year of his contract.
For a team that values linebackers like no other organization, locking up Woodley before the regular season would be a no brainer. However, it is believed that the 30 percent rule limits the Steelers ability to offer Woodley enough of a raise over his 2009 salary $460,000 to make a deal work.
But, There is one loophole around the 30 percent rule; Signing bonuses
The San Francisco 49ers have been one of the few teams to overcame the limitations of the 30 percent rule, signing star linebacker Patrick Willis (2007, 1st round pick) to a seven year extension worth more than $50 million in May.
Like Woodley, Willis is entering his fourth year.
How the 49ers found a way to reach a deal with Willis was through two signing bonuses and easily attainable escalators.
Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post broke down the specifics in a May 5th column.
The Willis deal has a total value of roughly $50M over seven years, with $29M guaranteed and a signing bonus of $15.5M.
*23M in 30% increase money
*20.3M in signing bonus and supersede money
*10M in easily-earned escalators
*15.5M signing bonus
*4.8M supersede bonus
*8.7M in future salary guarantees
The Steelers have yet to publicly speak about contract talks with Woodley but according to Ed Bouchette of the Post-Gazette, there has been no talks of any substance to date. Bouchette points to the 30 percent rule as the reason.
However, word out of Woodley’s camp is that the Steelers have been the ones holding up any kind of movement towards a deal because they have yet to even initiate talks.
There is believed to be some frustration in Woodley’s camp from the standpoint that the Steelers have yet to show any interest in trying to get creative like the 49ers and overcome the limitations of the 30 percent rule.
Woodley is represented by super agent Drew Rosenhaus.
If there is a new CBA agreed upon next March 1, 2011, Woodley would become an unrestricted free agent. There is also the possibility that Woodley could be retained with a franchise tag if franchise and transition tags are apart of a new CBA. If the current non-salary cap 2010 offseason rules apply, Woodley would be a restricted free agent.
Following Tuesday’s practice Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin talked about how he doesn’t expect Woodley’s contract status to affect his focus as a player.
One of the attractive things about LaMarr Woodley is that “man”…. he is a football-first guy, ” Tomlin said.
“Very rarely is he distracted by things other than the game….. when he’s in a professional environment…. when he’s preparing himself and when he’s playing. That’s a part of being a professional athlete, particularly in today’s NFL with the uncertainty regarding labor.”
“One thing I know is that he has a contract for 2010….. He’s committed to working for 2010 and that’s our mentality, Tomlin added.
“We haven’t had any discussions and really haven’t pondered a bunch about that. I know he’s going to get asked that question….. He knows he’s going to be asked that question…. Like a lot of things, those questions will be answered in time.”

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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