Woodley expects to be franchised by Steelers in coming weeks

Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley hasn't been informed formally yet, but he is "fully expecting" to be designated as the team's franchise player within the next two weeks, according to a source.

The hope, on both sides, is that it leads to a long-term deal for the rising 26-year-old pass-rusher, as it has for other Steelers tagged in recent years.

Pittsburgh tagged tackle Max Starks in 2009, and signed him to a four-year deal four months later. Last year, the team was ready to tag nose tackle Casey Hampton, but it instead signed him to a three-year deal just before the deadline to franchise players and tagged kicker Jeff Reed instead.

Woodley would receive the linebacker tag salary, which is expected to exceed $10 million, but could argue that he deserves a hybrid end/linebacker figure like the one Terrell Suggs received in 2009. The defensive end franchise number is expected to come at more than $13 million.

Woodley's 35 sacks since 2008 rank fourth in the NFL, and he's one of just five players (Dwight Freeney, James Harrison, Jared Allen, DeMarcus Ware) to post double-digit sacks in each of the last three years.

Because of the 30 percent rule, it's nearly impossible for Pittsburgh and Woodley to work out a long-term deal now, since he made just $550,000 in base salary in 2010, and that number can only go up by increments of $165,000 (30 percent of his final year on the old deal) in each year of a new deal.

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