On the heels of 26-year-old Jake Locker announcing his retirement earlier today, free agent linebacker Jason Worilds, who just turned 27 last Tuesday, has also confirmed he plans to step away from football, according to a statement released by his agent Jason Bernstein (Twitter link).
“I appreciate all of the interest from the organizations that have reached out to us the past few days,” Worilds said in the statement. “With that being said, after much thought and consideration I have chosen to step away from football as I have opted to pursue other interests. I am especially grateful of the opportunity to play before some of the greatest fans in football today. Despite any concern and speculation that may ensue, I appreciate those that are respectful of my decision.”
While Locker and Patrick Willis, who also announced his retirement today, had dealt with injury problems during the 2014 season, Worilds played and started all 16 games for the Steelers, turning in perhaps the best season of his career with 62 tackles and 7.5 sacks. Over the weekend, I ranked the former second-round pick 14th on my list of this year’s top 50 free agents.
According to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter links), Worilds’ decision comes as a result of experiencing a “spiritual awakening,” and he intends to pursue his faith after ending his NFL career. La Canfora tweets that Worilds’ reps have told interested teams this week that their client was grappling with his future and was likely to explore a new career path. By opting for that new path, Worilds is likely walking away from a $7-8MM annual salary, with at least $15MM in guaranteed money, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
In addition to the Steelers, who were open to re-signing Worilds, the Titans were also viewed as a serious suitor for the Virginia Tech product, given the presence of former Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau on their staff. The Eagles had been mentioned as a possible landing spot as well, though their interest likely waned once they re-signed Brandon Graham.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.