PITTSBURGH - LaMarr Woodley is about to become one of the most expensive ex-Steelers in team history.
The Steelers will release the former Pro Bowl outside linebacker -- one who is coming off three consecutive injury-interrupted seasons -- after June 1, a move that will allow them to defer part of Woodley's dead money salary cap hit until 2015.
Woodley was told Monday of the decision, which was confirmed by his representatives.
Because Woodley will be a post-June 1 cut -- as former Steelers offensive lineman Willie Colon was a season ago -- the Steelers cannot officially announce the move until 4 p.m. Tuesday. Woodley is free to sign with any team after that time.
After Woodley spent most of the second half of the 2013 season injured and unable to play, and former backup Jason Worilds had a breakthrough half-season, the Steelers designated Worilds as their transition player. The move guarantees Worilds $9.754 million this season, unless he signs a multi-year contract that both sides want.
This article was written by Alan Robinson at the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
The Woodley decision also means that 2013 first-round pick Jarvis Jones, who will be tutored by new assistant Joey Porter, is all but certain to start in 2014.
The Steelers will not have to pay the remaining $25.5 million in salary on the $61.5 million, six-year contract Woodley signed in 2011. His salary cap hit of $13.59 million in 2014 will be reduced to $5.6 million, but he will count an additional $8.5 million against their 2015 cap.
Woodley's $14.1 million in dead money -- which counts against the cap whether he is on the team or not -- increased by about $10 million as Woodley restructured his contract the last two seasons.
Woodley, a second-round draft pick in 2007, has 57 sacks in seven seasons, including 52 in his first six seasons -- the most in Steelers history during such a span. But he has only 18 sacks since signing his 2011 contract, which made him the highest-paid defensive player in Steelers history. He was a Pro Bowl player and a second-team All-Pro in 2009.
Woodley has missed 16 games and part of four others over the last three seasons. He had five sacks in the first six games last season, but didn't have another one while missing much of the second half of the season with calf injuries in both legs -- a layoff that allowed Worilds to move into the lineup and thrive.
When Woodley returned late in the season, he moved from left outside linebacker -- the position he'd always played with the Steelers -- to the right side to accommodate Worilds, who enjoyed his breakout half-season playing on the left side.
Woodley and James Harrison, the star outside linebackers on the Steelers' 2008 and 2010 Super Bowl teams, have left the team in less than a year. Harrison was cut last season after the Steelers could not rework his contract and he signed with the division rival Bengals.
Woodley will turn 30 on Nov. 3, or about midway through the 2014 season. He immediately becomes one of the best pass rushers available on the free agent market.