Patriots restricted free agent outside linebacker Pierre Woods has signed a one-year deal with the team. However, according to a source close to Woods, it is not the $1.176 million RFA tender offer he received from the Patriots back in March.
This is significant because it means that Woods likely will not have to take a pay cut in 2010 to remain where he wanted to be, in a Patriots uniform.
With four years of playing experience, Woods would have been an unrestricted free agent under the previous rules of the collective bargaining agreement but was put in a restricted free agency bind by the rules that went into effect with the final, uncapped year of the CBA.
In 2009, the Patriots tendered Woods at the second-round level of restricted free agency, a one-year, $1.54 million tender offer, which Woods played under last season.
But in March, the Patriots tendered Woods, who normally would have been a UFA, at the lowest possible tender for RFAs with four years of experience — $1.176 million — meaning they retained right of first refusal. However, if a team made an offer sheet to Woods, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent, there would be no draft pick compensation if the Patriots declined to match the offer sheet.
The deadline for RFA offer sheets from other teams passed last Thursday. So, Woods was facing the prospect of either signing a 2010 tender that was lower than his 2009 salary ($1.54 million) or hoping the Patriots — as dictated by the collective bargaining agreement — re-tendered him at 110 percent of his 2009 salary by June 1.
The latter seemed unlikely since it was somewhat of a surprise when the team low-tendered Woods, who started a career-high five games last season and also tied for the team lead in special teams tackles with 18.
If the Patriots hadn’t re-tendered Woods at 110 percent of his ’09 salary, the affable outside linebacker would have become an unrestricted free agent and the Patriots probably would have moved on from him.
Now, Woods is back with the Patriots for a fifth season and another opportunity to prove he can be a starting outside linebacker in the NFL.
At the least the Patriots have added depth to their outside linebacker corps and retained a valuable special teams contributor. If Woods, who has just one career sack, in four seasons can develop as a pass rusher, he could turn out to be quite a bargain.