Contract issues among young stars in the NFL are all the rage these days, most prominently with the Titans' Chris Johnson and the Jets' Darrelle Revis.
You can now throw LaMarr Woodley's hat into that ring as a bit of frustration with his employer peeked out in an interview with Mike Silver of Yahoo!:
“It’s kind of jacked up,” Woodley said. “Everything I’ve ever done for the Steelers, on and off the field, has been positive. Sometimes you don’t get the same thing back in return.”
I understand Woodley's situation, I really do. The guy is one of the top 'backers in the game, he's pulling down peanuts for a salary in 2010 (relatively speaking, of course), and the Steelers have made no overtures towards a new deal because of the CBA. He looks around at players in similar situations and sees a raise for Kevin Kolb in Philadelphia and accelerated escalators for Tennessee's Johnson, and wonders where his payday is:
“I’m not going to lie – I was a little disappointed that they didn’t offer anything at all,” Woodley said. “I felt that was a little weird. I guess they decided they’re going to sit back and wait for the CBA and all that to play out.
“You look around the league and you see different teams getting stuff done with their players in similar situations, and you think, ‘What, the Steelers don’t care about me?’ Stuff like that goes through your mind.”
Make no doubt about it, the Steelers have enough problems going into 2010 without having to worry about Woodley's state of mind. The easy response is to say, "A contract is a contract, so Woodley should shut his mouth and play," but in today's NFL, that really doesn't fly. Teams can cut players at any time. Contracts mean very little. The window for players to earn money is limited. None of this qualifies as breaking news.
But what does this mean long-term for Woodley? Well, with the CBA up in the air, there's no guarantee that the franchise tag option will exist in the future. There's no communication going on between Woodley and the team, and it sounds like that won't be changing anytime soon. By letting the season play out with no new deal in place, both sides are taking a calculated risk, and there's no absolute guarantee that the Super Bowl champion will be a Pittsburgh Steeler in 2011 or beyond. Surprisingly, that appears to be a risk the Steelers are willing to take. Like Woodley says, that is kind of jacked up.