Jason Worilds

Jason Worilds To Retire

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).Jason Worilds

“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.

With Worilds off the market, the Titans – and other teams eyeing an outside pass rusher could become more aggressive in their pursuit of players like Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC FA Rumors: Hardy, Peterson, Worilds

Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter) hears there’s at least some cursory interest in Greg Hardy from the 49ers. Still, it’s very early in the process and his signing might drag on for some time. No matter who signs him, Robinson says (link) that it’ll be a slow process and he expects to see some media leaks to see how it plays publicly. More from the NFC..

  • Vikings running back Adrian Peterson met with the Wilfs in New York on Monday and GM Rick Spielman, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today. It was a continuation of the discussion Peterson had last week with Spielman and Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who huddled with Peterson for about four hours at his home outside Houston to discuss his future with the team.
  • Jason Worilds has a clear idea of what he wants but both the Giants and Steelers think that price is too high, Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com tweets. As one source told the NFL.com scribe, “We’re not paying $1MM per sack.” Worilds notched 7.5 sacks in 2014.
  • B.J. Raji‘s preference is to return to the Packers but he’s weighing offers and his return is no sure thing right now, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
  • The Lions are still trying to get something done with Nick Fairley but he’s got some interest elsewhere, Robinson tweets.
  • The Packers are not pursuing Andre Johnson at this time, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com tweets. It appears that Johnson was only being looked at in case Randall Cobb went elsewhere.
  • The Falcons are expected to be in play for Rams tight end Lance Kendricks, according to Jim Thomas of the Post Dispatch (on Twitter).

AFC FA Rumors: Harvin, Raiders, Adams

The Raiders‘ interest in wide receiver Percy Harvin will be contingent on meeting him and also finding out his price tag, Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. Even with Harvin’s connection to Bill Musgrave, the Raiders have to inspect the baggage before going any further with him. The latest free agent rumors..

  • Stephen Holder of the Indy Star (on Twitter) still anticipates the Colts re-signing safety Mike Adams, but no deal is done just yet. Adams, who turns 34 later this month, has said that he wants to retire with the Colts.
  • Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com (on Twitter) suggested that the Raiders are pursuing Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith. Bill Williamson of ESPN.com (via Twitter) believes that the Raiders are the favorites when it comes to him.
  • Linebacker Arthur Moats spoke with the Bengals and Cardinals and seemed set to go to the Falcons before deciding to re-sign with the Steelers, Ross Tucker of NBCSN tweets.
  • The Titans are still working to retain both defensive end Derrick Morgan and kicker Ryan Succop as the clock ticks towards the opening of free agency, Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com tweets.
  • McCormick (on Twitter) isn’t sure that the Titans will land him, but he expects them to seriously pursue Jason Worilds.
  • Linebacker Andrew Gachkar has received interest from the Vikings, Panthers, and Raiders, and may end up visiting all three teams later this week, tweets Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports. Washington has also talked to Gachkar’s camp, but hasn’t made an offer yet, per Mike Jones of the Washington Post (Twitter link). The 26-year-old had his best season for the Chargers in 2014, playing nearly 400 defensive snaps.

Titans Rumors: Sanchez, McCourty, Worilds

The Titans are showing “decent interest” in free agent QB Mark Sanchez, according to Mike Garfolo of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Second-year player Zach Mettenberger currently tops Tennessee’s quarterback depth chart, but the club could also look to upgrade the position with the No. 2 overall pick in next month’s draft. Sanchez, whom the Eagles are interested in retaining, would make for a nice stopgap solution if the Titans did take a QB in the draft.

Here’s more on the Titans, with all links going to the Twitter account of the Tennessean’s Jim Wyatt:

  • The Titans have reached out to safety Devin McCourty, whose twin brother Jason is a corner for the club. McCourty, who somewhat surprisingly wasn’t franchised by the Patriots, is the top safety available, so the Titans will certainly have competition. Tennessee recently released Bernard Pollard, so they have an opening in the back end.
  • Clearly interested in secondary help, the Titans will meet with cornerback Cary Williams tomorrow. Williams, recently released by the Eagles, has already met with the Seahawks and Jets.
  • Tennessee is interested in Jason Worilds and a number of other edge rushers. Former Steelers coordinator Dick LeBeau is now running the Titans’ defense, so the connection to Worilds makes sense.
  • The club still wants to retain free agent rusher Derrick Morgan, whom Wyatt notes is a getting an “idea of his value” during the three-day negotiating window.

Eagles Expected To Pursue Jason Worilds

The Eagles are on the verge of formally parting ways with longtime edge defender Trent Cole, and don’t appear close to working anything out with free-agent-to-be Brandon Graham, meaning outside linebacker will be a priority for the club this offseason. One potential target for Philadelphia is currently under contract with the league’s other Pennsylvania club — Dianna Marie Russini of NBC 4 Washington reports (via Twitter) that the Eagles are expected to pursue Jason Worilds as soon as free agency gets underway.

Worilds, who celebrated his 27th birthday yesterday, played the 2014 season on a one-year transition tag from the Steelers, earning $9.754MM. The former second-round pick had a 2014 season that was very similar to his 2013 campaign, putting up essentially the same tackle and sack totals in ’14 (62 and 7.5) that he did a year earlier (63, 8.0).

Still, the Steelers elected not to tag Worilds again, so he’s expected to reach the open market in a matter of days. A multiyear contract for the Virginia Tech product may come in at around $7.5MM annually, according to a recent report by Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. Given all the cap room cleared recently by the Eagles, that’s certainly a price the team could afford, though the team has a few holes to fill, so we’ll have to see how aggressive they’re willing to be.

For now, while Connor Barwin is penciled in one starter at outside linebacker for the Eagles, there’s no clear favorite for the second spot. 2014 first-rounder Marcus Smith is one candidate, but he didn’t see much action during his rookie season, and lined up primarily at inside linebacker when he did play.

For their part, the Steelers have expressed interest in bringing back Worilds, though if he finds a big offer on the open market, it’s not clear if Pittsburgh would be eager to match it.

FA Rumors: Orakpo, Worilds, Dockett, Murray

After franchising him last year, Washington won’t use a tag on edge defender Brian Orakpo this time around, according to Dianna Marie Russini of NBC 4 Washington (via Twitter). However, Russini does add that the two sides are trying to work out a new agreement before next week’s free agent period.

Here are a few more updates on free agents and free-agents-to-be around the league:

  • Outside linebacker Jason Worilds, who received the transition tag last year from the Steelers, was the team’s only real candidate to be tagged this year, but Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the club will allow Worilds to reach the open market (Twitter link).
  • Defensive lineman Darnell Dockett has a visit scheduled with the 49ers tonight, reports Ed Werder of ESPN.com (via Twitter). We heard earlier today from agent Drew Rosenhaus that there’s a strong market for Dockett, who will likely have a new deal in place by the end of the week.
  • Werder also provides an update on Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, tweeting that the team intends to make a “respectable” offer to the NFL’s leading rusher. The Cowboys are hoping that Murray will give them a chance to match any offer he receives in free agency, but he’ll have no obligation to do so, and Dallas’ flexibility may be limited.
  • Former Eagles offensive lineman Todd Herremans, who is looking for a new NFL home, said today on PFT Live that he’d like to join a contender and win a Super Bowl ring before he retires (Twitter link).
  • In addition to his reported visit with the Lions, free agent defensive tackle Kendall Langford has “several” more meetings on his schedule, tweets Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

AFC North Notes: Pouncey, Worilds, Ngata

The Steelers have not hammered out a restructuring of center Maurkice Pouncey‘s deal just yet, but an agreement is close and is expected to be finalized by next week, according to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Pouncey’s current deal takes him through the 2019 season with a $8.1MM cap number in 2015. A full restructure of his deal would save the Steelers $3.8MM in cap space in 2015. Here’s more from the AFC North..

  • The Steelers have no plans of using a transition tag on Jason Worilds and will let him hit free agency on March 10th, a league source told Scott Brown of ESPN.com. The Steelers paid the outside linebacker $9.754MM in 2014 after they used a transition tag on him. Right now, Jarvis Jones is the only outside linebacker on the roster who is signed for 2015 and has NFL experience. Worilds, 27, has recorded 122 tackles and 15.5 sacks in the last two seasons for Pittsburgh.
  • Ed Werder of ESPN.com (on Twitter) gets the sense that Haloti Ngata believes he can play at a high level for three more seasons. He would prefer to remain with the Ravens for that time but he’s also prepared to move on if necessary.
  • Jarret Johnson probably falls short in seeing his name placed into the Ravens‘ Ring of Honor, but that doesn’t mean the gritty linebacker didn’t leave a mark on the franchise, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com writes. “In 38 years of coaching, he may be the most physical, toughest football player that I’ve ever been around,” former Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. Johnson, who was with the Chargers from 2012 through 2014, announced his retirement on Tuesday.

La Canfora On Manning, Suh, McCown, Saints

Weighing in on two of the biggest offseason stories, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com leads off his latest piece by looking at the Peyton Manning and Ndamukong Suh situations. In La Canfora’s view, Manning will ultimately return to the Broncos after the two sides tweak his contract a little. As for Suh, the CBSSports.com scribe doesn’t have any updates on the Lions‘ talks with the defensive star, but says he thinks the Jaguars and Raiders will be major players. For those teams to be involved in the Suh derby, he’d have to reach the open market, which would mean no long-term deal or franchise tag from Detroit.

La Canfora also passes along plenty more tidbits related to free agency, so let’s dive in and round up the highlights….

  • When it comes to the market’s top pass rushers, La Canfora thinks Pernell McPhee can reach $10MM per year, with Jerry Hughes in the $9MM range, and Brandon Graham and Jason Worilds around $7.5MM. La Canfora also believes that all four of those players will join new teams next month.
  • Free agent quarterback Josh McCown is expected to decide on his new team later this week or early next week, and could land another deal worth $5MM annually. The Bills and Browns look like the best bets for McCown, according to La Canfora.
  • The Saints are working through contract issues with about a half-dozen players on their roster, sources tell La Canfora. If things work out the way the team hopes, Marques Colston, Jahri Evans, and Curtis Lofton would likely stick around on reduced salaries, while Ben Grubbs, Brodrick Bunkley, and David Hawthorne could be let go. As for Junior Galette, La Canfora is hearing that head coach Sean Payton has “expressed a desire” to part ways with him, following his January arrest. However, Galette’s contract still contains a sizeable chunk of guaranteed money, and the team likely can’t void those guarantees.
  • Percy Harvin probably won’t accept a pay cut from the Jets, which means the team will likely cut him. La Canfora expects the wideout to gamble himself in free agency, signing a one-year deal with a team that has a good quarterback in place.
  • The Jaguars will be seeking a top pass catcher, and La Canfora wouldn’t be surprised if the team lands a player like Randall Cobb or Julius Thomas. Per La Canfora, the Packers recognize Cobb’s market could get out of hand, and may focus on re-signing other key free agents, like Bryan Bulaga and Letroy Guion.
  • Chiefs center Rodney Hudson came very close to signing a four-year extension worth $6MM per year during the season. He’s a good bet to exceed that amount in free agency, and the Raiders are one viable suitor.
  • La Canfora anticipates the Ravens will work out a restructured deal with Lardarius Webb, but isn’t as certain about Haloti Ngata, who may play for a new team in 2015.
  • The Jets would have interest in Ryan Mallett if he reaches the open market. However, the Texans have made their interest in the quarterback clear, and Mallett himself said today that he’d like to return to Houston (Twitter link via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle).

Combine Pressers: Steelers, Bucs, Broncos, 49ers

48 head coaches or general managers are scheduled to speak today, tomorrow, and Friday at the NFL’s scouting combine in Indianapolis, with the Eagles, Saints, and Patriots the only teams not represented on this year’s schedule. Those mini-pressers are already underway, so let’s round up a few of the notable comments made by the men who have spoken to the media so far. All links go to the Twitter accounts of various NFL reporters in attendance….

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert:

  • Contract talks between Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers are “progressing,” according to Colbert. With Big Ben heading into the final year of his current deal, the two sides are expected to work out a new agreement at some point during the offseason, and the GM is very confident it can be done within a traditional cap structure.
  • Despite the fact that LeGarrette Blount ultimately played a major role for the Super Bowl champion Patriots, Colbert said today that he and his club have no regrets about parting ways with the running back during the season.
  • While Colbert said he’d love to bring back free-agent-to-be Jason Worilds, he didn’t convey a ton of confidence that something will get done, telling reporters, “Maybe he comes back, maybe he moves on.” Per Colbert, the outside linebacker may need to test the open market to gauge his value.

Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith:

  • Calling Josh McCown a “lifelong friend,” Smith said he thought it was in both the team’s and the quarterback’s interests to part ways earlier this month.
  • The Buccaneers’ new coaches like Mike Glennon, so the plan right now is to move forward with Glennon at quarterback — he’s the only signal-caller on the roster at the moment, but Smith thinks he has the potential to be a solid NFL starter.
  • While Glennon may be atop the Tampa Bay depth chart by default for now, Smith also addressed the idea of selecting a quarterback with the first overall pick in April. According to the head coach, the Bucs aren’t put off by Jameis Winston‘s off-field issues, and would be comfortable with the idea of making him the face of their franchise. The vetting process for both Winston and Marcus Mariota is ongoing, and Smith says the team has already “talked to a lot of people” about both prospects.
  • Asked about Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs, two potential free agents whom used to play for Smith in Chicago, the head coach said he’s not sure how much interest they’ll generate, but he believes they can still be positive contributors.

Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak:

  • Although Kubiak said he has received no assurances that Peyton Manning will be back with the Broncos, all indications are pointing toward him returning. The new Denver head coach talked about adjusting his offense to suit Manning’s skills, which strongly suggest he expects to be coaching the future Hall-of-Famer.
  • According to Kubiak, he had a “good conversation” with Wes Welker, who says he’s feeling good and wants to play in 2015. Of course, the receiver doesn’t have a contract yet, so there’s no guarantee he’ll continue playing for the Broncos. Denver would “love to have him back” though, says Kubiak.
  • Kubiak expects the transition from a 4-3 defense under Jack Del Rio to a 3-4 scheme under Wade Phillips to go fairly smoothly.

49ers GM Trent Baalke:

  • Baalke intends to meet with veteran defensive end Justin Smith after the combine to determine whether or not Smith wants to return for a 15th NFL season in 2015.
  • Asked about wide receiver prospects at the combine and in the draft, Baalke said, “It’s no mystery, we’re looking for guys who can run.”
  • Baalke declined to comment on Jim Harbaugh‘s recent suggestion that the former head coach’s departure from the 49ers was the team’s decision and not his own. “He’s moved on and we’ve moved on,” the GM said.
  • According to the Niners GM, the team’s head coaching job was offered to “one person and one person only” (Jim Tomsula), meaning the club never officially offered the position to Adam Gase. Baalke did confirm that the Niners made an effort to retain defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, but that was dependent on who became the head coach.

Steelers Notes: Ben, Worilds, FAs, Draft

Speaking to reporters today, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert addressed a number of items on his team’s offseason to-do list, including contract extension talks with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. While there was some initial confusion among local reporters about Colbert’s comments about Big Ben, the team’s PR rep, Burt Lauten, tweets that the Steelers have indeed begun preliminary negotiations on a new deal with their QB. The club is confident that the two sides will work something out that locks up Roethlisberger for the next few years, according to Colbert.

That piece of info comes from Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Twitter), and Kaboly tweeted several more highlights from Colbert’s presser, as did ESPN’s Scott Brown and Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Here are the noteworthy comments and observations from Colbert, with all links going to Twitter:

  • According to Colbert, the Steelers would like to re-sign outside linebacker Jason Worilds, believing he had a good season in 2014 and that he has plenty of upside going forward. While the club doesn’t like to use the franchise tag, it hasn’t ruled out the possibility of assigning the transition tag to Worilds again this season. The cost for that tag in 2014 was about $9.75MM — it would be higher (likely around $11MM) in 2015.
  • At the moment, Colbert is concerned about the depth at tight end and outside linebacker, since only Heath Miller and Jarvis Jones are under contract for 2015 at those positions.
  • Defensive backs and pass rushers will be among Pittsburgh’s top priorities in free agency and the draft. The team will consider adding a starting cornerback if there is one who fits into the team’s system and cap, according to Colbert: “Sure, that’s a position that you are looking for help. Is there one who is available and signable? I don’t know yet.”
  • It doesn’t sound as if Colbert would be too concerned if the Steelers don’t make major additions at cornerback and outside linebacker in free agency — he believes it’s a strong draft class for both of those spots. For now though, every position remains in play for the club’s first-round pick (No. 22 overall).
  • Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin will begin talks on Wednesday about which prospective free agents the team wants to attempt to re-sign. Ike Taylor and James Harrison are among the veteran defenders who will be up for discussion.
  • The Steelers won’t have to make as many cap-clearing moves in advance of free agency as they did a year ago, per Colbert.